Addiction, Dignity, Injection Drug Use, Qualitative Secondary Analysis, Substance Use Disorder



  1. Dion, Kimberly PhD, RN, CNE, CARN, FIAAN
  2. Griggs, Stephanie PhD, RN, FAAN
  3. Murray, Jordan BS, RN
  4. Friedman, Sarah BS, RN


Background: Dignity is a complex concept necessary for the adequate treatment of patients in the healthcare setting. Autonomy, self-sufficiency, respect, and equality are concepts used to define dignity. Dignity has not been studied in people who inject drugs (PWID).


Objective: This study aimed to determine how PWID maintain or have their dignity threatened during hospitalization in an acute care unit.


Design: The qualitative descriptive study was a deductive thematic analysis of secondary data on PWID experiences with received nursing care. In-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted and transcribed verbatim with a constant comparison method for thematic analysis using NVivo. A priori codes of dignity concepts from the literature and dignity scales were used as a guide to examine the nine qualitative transcripts.


Findings: The three most common threats to dignity during hospitalization were lack of equality compared with other patients, not feeling valued as an individual, and not feeling respected by the healthcare workers providing care. The three most common protectors of dignity were feeling respected by healthcare workers, having autonomy in treatment choices, and feeling valued as an individual.


Conclusions: Protecting dignity significantly affects whether PWID are willing to seek healthcare in the hospital setting. Preserving dignity in PWID during their hospitalizations can encourage this population to seek care earlier. Nurses must be experienced in caring for PWID and provide nonjudgmental care for this population.