Patient privacy: a qualitative study on the views and experiences of nurses and patients

Main Article Content

Serpil Akgul Yilmaz
Sevilay Senol Celik


Privacy, intensive care unit, patient, nurse, qualitative research


Objective: The aim of the study was to determine views and experiences of intensive care unit nurses and patients on the issue of protecting patient privacy. Background: Intensive care should be delivered to protect the privacy of intensive care patients because these patients experience a loss of personal identity and significant limitations in physical activity and emotional expression. Intensive care patients may not be able to dress themselves; they may not communicate effectively without glasses and hearing aids; they cannot control the environment; they may not govern their actions, and they may not advocate for themselves. For these reasons, nurses should assume a primary role to protect patient privacy because they spend many hours with them and witness patients’ loneliness, pain, and death as their primary caregivers. Study design and methods: This is a qualitative study using a phenomenological method with data gathered through interview. The study was conducted with nurses (n = 14) and patients (n = 14) in the intensive care units of a state hospital in a metropolitan city in Turkey between 12 March 2018 – 4 October 2019. Data were collected from nurses and patients using semi-structured interview forms. Content analysis revealed categories, themes, and sub-themes. We have followed the Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ). Results: The categories explored in the study for both nurses and patients were the concepts of privacy, privacy protection and privacy violation. Some of the sub-themes were physical privacy, not sharing personal information, using screens or curtains, using aprons or sheets, insufficient number of nurses or excessive number of patients, and a lack of inspection and equipment. Conclusion: This study shows that the acquired information and the awareness of privacy, protection of privacy, and violations of privacy were adequate among both nurses and patients. Some of the nurses in the study stated that institution-related violations occurred because of the inadequate numbers of nurses to provide care to an exceedingly large number of patients. The implications for research, policy, and practice: Increasing awareness of nurses and patients on patients’ rights and protection of privacy and violations of privacy and taking adequate measures to protect patient privacy increase both patient satisfaction and service quality in health.

What is already known about the topic?

  • Privacy is a fundamental human right.

  • Protection of patient privacy is the responsibility of healthcare professionals.

What this paper adds:

  • The awareness of patient rights for privacy and privacy protection has been well established among patients and nurses, and both participating patients and nurses were knowledgeable of respective privacy violations.

  • Institution-related factors such as the insufficient numbers of nurses, exceedingly large numbers of patients, problems with the main door access control systems in intensive care units, and the provision of care in smaller units than optimum ones are significant factors involved in the privacy violations of patients.

  • Patients were reluctant to report privacy violations because they believed this could negatively affect their treatment and care.

Abstract 259 | View PDF Downloads 130