Journal of Professional Nursing

Patients’ Experiences of Interpersonal Relationships during First Time Acute Hospitalisation   

Colette Blockley, RN, MA (Nursing), Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin
Maxine Alterio, MA, Principal Lecturer, Educational Development Centre, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin

Reference:  Blockley, C., & Alterio, M. (2008). Patients’ experiences of interpersonal relationships during first time acute hospitalisation. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 24(2), 16-26.


This article examines the role of interpersonal relationships on patients’ experiences during first time acute hospitalisation. It is developed from a wider study undertaken in 2000 in which patients’ overall experiences were explored. A qualitative methodology was used with data collected by means of semi-structured interviews and personal stories. Twelve participants were involved, seven females and five males of varying ages, all first time acute medical and surgical admissions. Findings suggest that supportive interpersonal relationships reduce patient vulnerability and that nurses play a key role in the development and maintenance of these relationships.  

Acute hospitalisation, vulnerability, support, nurse-patient relationships

Numerous studies have been conducted around the experience of hospitalisation (Auerbach et al., 2005; Hallstrom & Elander, 2002; Huckstadt, 2002; Warren, Holloway & Smith, 2000). Others have focused on the importance of communicating with hospitalised patients (Bolstad, Hamblett, Ohlson, & Hardie, 1992; Edgman-Levitan, 1993; Pearce, 2002). However, a gap was identified in the literature regarding interpersonal relationships during first time acute hospitalisation (Blockley, 2003). The present article seeks to close this gap by exploring the role of such relationships with respect to twelve patients, as revealed through their stories.   

Literature Review
At the time the wider study was undertaken, no literature specifically explored first time acute hospitalisation in relation to nursepatient relationships, vulnerability and support. However, in the last three years, a substantial body of related knowledge has become available on databases such as CINAHL, PubMed and ProQuest. This review reflects these developments.

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