Anaesthesia often induces a state of unconsciousness that includes inability to communicate and influence the situation. The patient has to rely on the nurse anaesthetist to speak up for her/him as well as maintain her/his dignity and safety. Consequently, the nurse anaesthetist can be likened to the patient's advocate.
The aim of the study was to describe advocacy in anaesthesia care during the perioperative phase from the perspective of the registered nurse anaesthetist.
Data for this qualitative descriptive study were collected during March and April, 2011. Individual interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 20 nurse anaesthetists from two hospitals in Sweden. The audio-taped interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed by means of qualitative content analysis.
The main theme, Holding the patient's life in my hands, described the nurse anaesthetists' perception of advocacy and comprised three subthemes: providing dignified care, providing safe care and a moral commitment.
Acting as the patient's advocate includes important health and well-being issues and could be stressful for the nurse anaesthetists'. A work environment where the nurse anaesthetists' can make their voices heard and feel that their opinion regarding the patient's best interests is taken seriously would be desirable, as all health professionals should ideally focus on those in their care.
To examine the extent to which the findings from an integrative review regarding perioperative patient advocacy could be empirically supported, and to describe Swedish registered nurse anaesthetists' patient advocacy actions and interactions during the perioperative period.
Patient advocacy is practiced by various healthcare professionals in promoting the well-being of patients. It is complex, and in a general healthcare context, it has been described as supporting the patients both physiologically and psychologically. During general anaesthesia, the patient enters an unconscious state, and the registered nurse anaesthetist safeguards patient privacy and autonomy.
Individual, nonparticipant observations (n = 16) with eight registered nurse anaesthetists. The observer followed the nurses unobtrusively by shadowing them during the perioperative phase on two separate occasions. The analysis was conducted with a directed content analysis in the light of four predetermined categories, identified in a previous integrative review of patient advocacy in the perioperative setting: protecting, value preserving, supporting and informing.
The predetermined categories were empirically supported. They were further refined by identifying 11 new subcategories leading to a conceptual extension of the theoretical frame. The registered nurse anaesthetists interacted with the patient and all members of the surgical team when practicing perioperative patient advocacy and the actions were mostly initiated by the registered nurse anaesthetists themselves.
The findings offer a new insight into the registered nurse anaesthetist's professional role. The observations deepen the understanding of the registered nurse anaesthetists' perioperative patient advocacy actions and can contribute to a more reflective and theory-oriented view of practice.
The results from this study could be used to help registered nurse anaesthetists and their students understand practice in a more complete and insightful way.