Substance-Abusing Patients' Perceptions of Nursing Care

Friday, 28 July 2017

Christina M. Mertz, BSN
Nursing Department, Longwood University, Farmville, VA, USA

Purpose: Existing research consistently documents that most nurses have negative attitudes toward patients who are substance abusers. These attitudes tend to be even stronger in non-psychiatric facilities, where substance-abusing patients are often admitted with a main diagnosis other than their substance abuse and are typically cared for by non-psychiatric nurses who may lack the knowledge and experience necessary to provide high-quality patient care to this population. These patients, then, may receive care that is less comprehensive and of a lower quality, which can significantly influence their outcomes and their opinions regarding their hospitalization experiences. However, there is little to no research on how substance-abusing patients themselves perceive the nursing care that they receive during hospitalization. Patient satisfaction is a crucial aspect of healthcare management and of direct nursing care, and there is a great need for further research regarding patient satisfaction in this particular population.

Methods: This research study will use a mixed-methods design and will mainly collect information via a survey whose questions will provide both quantitative and qualitative data. These questions will gather data on the circumstances of subjects’ hospitalizations, their perceptions regarding their hospitalization experiences, and the interactions that they had with their nurses. These questions will specifically focus on themes of pain management, call bell response, direct patient care, therapeutic communication, and patient advocacy. To qualify, research subjects must be substance-abusers and must have either visited an emergency department or been hospitalized in a non-psychiatric unit within the last year. Medical hospitals, inpatient psychiatric hospitals and units, and substance-use therapy groups may all be investigated as potential sites for research subject recruitment and for potential further snowball sampling.

Results: Because this study has not yet been conducted and the existing research base is extremely limited, the results are still unknown. However, the results of this study can provide an invaluable addition to the nursing literature and can help non-psychiatric inpatient nurses to provide better care for this patient population. Using the results of this study, then, nurses will be able to use an evidence-based framework to better treat their substance-abusing patients.

Conclusion: Nursing literature on substance-abusing patients focuses on nurses' perceptions of these patients and not on how the patients themselves perceive the care that they receive. The data, results, and conclusions from this study will add to the nursing knowledge base and can be used to allow nurses to provide a higher quality of evidence-based care to this patient population.