How does the environment impact on the quality of life of advanced cancer patients? A qualitative study with implications for ward design

  • Rowlands J
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It is well recognized that the ward environment has an effect on patients' quality of life and may, therefore, impact on the quality of end of life care. The body of evidence that informs ward design policy recommends single-bedded rooms on grounds of reduced infection risk, noise and versatility. Considering the majority of anticipated patient deaths occurring in hospitals, the quality of life aspects of ward design should also be considered. The aim of this study is to explore the views of patients with advanced cancer on the effect the ward environment has on their overall well-being. Semi-structured interviews exploring the experiences of 12 inpatients at a regional cancer centre were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analysed for emerg-ing themes until theoretical saturation. Four major themes emerged: staff behaviours, the immediate environment, single vs. multi-bedded rooms and contact with the out-side environment. The attitude, competence and helpfulness of the staff creates the atmosphere of the ward regardless of layout, furnishings, equipment and décor. The majority of the patients in this study expressed a strong preference for a multi-bedded room when they were well enough to interact and a single cubicle when they were very ill or dying, which opposes the current advice for building new hospitals with all single rooms. Although the current policy recommends the use of single-bedded rooms, this study suggests the need for a mix of multi-bedded wards and single rooms with respect to the impact of the environment on patient quality of life. Palliative Medicine (2008); 22: 768–774

Author-supplied keywords

  • environment
  • mood
  • qualitative
  • quality of life
  • room design
  • staff attitude
  • well being

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  • J Rowlands

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