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disability, hospitalization, nursing, qualitative research, unlicensed assistive personnel



  1. Smeltzer, Suzanne C. EdD, MSCN, RN, FAAN
  2. Avery, Colleen BSN, RN
  3. Haynor, Patricia PhD, RN


Objective: Inadequate primary health care and screening have been identified as serious issues for people with disabilities, but little evidence exists on the nursing care of this population when hospitalized. This study sought to explore the experiences of people with disabilities in their interactions with nurses and unlicensed assistive personnel and their perceptions of the care they received during hospital stays.


Methods: In this descriptive qualitative study, 35 people with disabilities were interviewed in focus groups, and audio recordings of the interviews were transcribed and validated for accuracy. Content analysis identified major themes.


Results: Four themes were identified: poor communication on the part of nursing staff, compromised care, negative attitudes among staff, and participants' fears related to quality of care.


Conclusions: The findings suggest the need for further research into the nursing care of people with disabilities during hospitalization. Educational strategies to ensure that nurses and unlicensed assistive personnel have adequate knowledge about the needs of people with disabilities may help in augmenting the care provided to this population.