In 1972, Stockwell published her controversial research (“The unpopular patient”) which described nurses’ relationships with patients who they perceived as “difficult”, and focussed on negative stereotyping. This was based around nurses giving preferential care to favoured patients.
Does this exist in palliative care, which prides itself on gold standard and person-centred care, across all care settings and particularly in specialist palliative care units and hospices?
During the author’s work in various palliative care settings and varying roles, it has been evident through a variety of approaches that even in palliative care patients can still be perceived as “unpopular”. This can, in turn, exacerbate that patient’s unpopular behaviour further (Goffman, 1963).
Dame Cicely Saunders stated, “You matter because you are you. We will do all we can to help you live until you die”. Equitable care access should prevent stereotyping, however the question is, do staff still label patients and families as unpopular? Is this simply an attitude and opinion? Does it affect the care they receive?
A brief literature review explores the concept of the unpopular patient in various care settings but not in palliative care. This work will complete a detailed literature review of “the unpopular patient”, the principles of palliative care and equitable access, and will be presented at the conference.
In future, research is required: initially this will be small scale through questionnaires to staff in a variety of palliative care settings and roles, using methodology similar to the original research. Following this, focus groups will be held to explore the emerging themes in more detail, and possibly individual interviews may be held with specific staff for richer data.
It is hoped that publishing and sharing this work will make staff working in palliative care self-aware about these attitudes.
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