Unfulfilled expectations: a narrative study of individuals’ experiences of being a patient on an acute psychiatric inpatient ward in Scotland
Stenhouse, Rosemary Clare
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This study examines people’s experiences of being a patient on an acute psychiatric inpatient ward in Scotland. Within the existing research base few studies focus on the patient’s experience of acute psychiatric inpatient care, and none of these is set in Scotland. Those that do, indicate that the patient experience of acute psychiatric inpatient care is often negative. The theoretical perspective of this study conceptualises experience as represented in narrative form, thus the data take the form of narratives. Thirteen participants were recruited through the acute ward. Each participant participated in two unstructured interviews focussed on gathering narratives of their experience. Data analysis was holistic, guided by Gee’s (1991) socio-linguistic theories. This holistic analysis culminated in the presentation of each participant’s narrative in poetic form. From the holistic analysis I identified three themes - help, safety and power - that were evident in the analyses of all participants’ interviews. The theme of help represents participants’ expectations that they will receive help on the ward, and their experiences of trying to get this help. Safety represents participants’ expectations pertaining to the ward’s function in keeping them safe, their experience of threat and strategies to keep safe. The theme of power represents participants’ experiences of power relations within the acute ward. I conclude that participants’ experiences of being a patient on the ward are characterised by feelings of frustration, concerns about safety, and the perceived need to focus on self-presentation as they attempt to reach their desired goal of discharge.