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The loneliness of the hospitalized patient Brennan, Audrey Diane

Abstract

This study is an enquiry into the loneliness of the hospitalized patient. The literature review is extensive and provides a conceptual framework for the development of loneliness. Loneliness is defined in relation to the need for relatedness and described in terms of its behavioural and cognitive dimensions. The tool used in the study is a two-part questionnaire developed by the investigator from the literature. The first part identifies variables specific to the hospitalized patient. The second part lists statements of behavioural indicators of loneliness. The purpose of the analysis is to determine the degree of association between the variables of the first part and the behavioural indicators of the second part. The questionnaire was distributed and collected by the investigator. There are limitations in the use of the questionnaire method of data collection for this study. The literature indicates that a high degree of loneliness associated change is accompanied by a low degree of freedom to communicate. However, the data analysis did not uphold this association in all instances. The pretest and test population samples are patients resident in three specific hospitals on the day selected for the study. Two of these hospitals were general acute treatment hospitals, each with a separate but associated Extended Care Unit, and one specialized rehabilitation hospital. The latter supplemented an otherwise deficient clinical service population within the two acute treatment centres. Four hundred and forty-three patients was the population tested. Analysis of the data indicates that specific variables within the hospital are significantly associated with the behavioural indicators of loneliness. One of the hospital variables studied was clinical service. The variations within each clinical service, identified some primary areas of concern. Medicine and Extended Care respondents perceived loneliness associated changes in themselves but did not perceive the freedom to communicate these perceptions. While similar in their response to loneliness behaviours, respondents from Psychiatry expressed a strong sense of relatedness with the nurse and a definite freedom to communicate with her. Surgery and Maternity respondents indicated no particular areas of concern. Rehabilitation respondents, while low in loneliness expression, provided a conflicting pattern to their perceived freedom to communicate and relatedness with the nurse. Rehabilitation respondents were very positive in their sense of freedom to communicate with the nurse, yet very negative in their sense of relatedness to her. The variable of number of visitors received per week significantly affected patient response. To a lesser, though still significant degree, patient response is influenced by the length of hospitalization and the number of visitors received per visit. The pattern of response for each of the variables is a function of the other. Research implications and recommendations for further study are indicated. This study provides initial information and a focus for further research.

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