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Dignity of the patient-–family unit: further understanding in hospice palliative care
  1. Qiaohong Guo1,
  2. Ruishuang Zheng2,
  3. Cynthia S Jacelon3,
  4. Susan McClement4,
  5. Genevieve Thompson4 and
  6. Harvey Chochinov5,6
  1. 1 School of Nursing, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China
  2. 2 Department of Hepatobiliary Cancer, Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital, Tianjin, China
  3. 3 College of Nursing, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4 College of Nursing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  5. 5 Department of Psychiatry, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  6. 6 Research Institute in Oncology and Hematology, CancerCare Manitoba, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Qiaohong Guo, School of Nursing, Capital Medical University, Beijing 100069, China; guoqiaohong07{at}; Ms Ruishuang Zheng, Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital, Tianjin 300060, China; zrs3225{at}


Objectives This study aimed to explore the construct of dignity of the patient–family dyad in hospice palliative care, as well as its influencing factors from the perspective of hospice palliative care staff.

Methods A qualitative descriptive study was conducted with 34 staff members from a residential hospice in Amherst, USA, and an inpatient palliative care unit in Winnipeg, Canada, between September 2013 and December 2016. Data were collected through semistructured interviews and were analysed using the thematic analysis approach.

Results Findings suggested that staff members viewed dignity as something that is reciprocally supported within the patient–family unit. Themes including respect, comfort, privacy, being informed and quality family time were common in the conceptualisation of dignity in patients and families; themes of being human and being self, autonomy and living with dignity were uniquely used to conceptualise patient dignity. Themes solely constituting family dignity included being included in care, being capable and being treated fairly. Cultural considerations, environmental factors, teamwork and patient/family–staff relationship were the factors identified by staff members that affected dignity in hospice palliative care.

Conclusion Findings of this study provide insights into the development of strategies to support the dignity of the patient–family unit in hospice palliative care.

  • dignity
  • dying patients
  • family members
  • staff
  • hospice care
  • palliative care

Data availability statement

No data are available.

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  • Contributors QG contributed to the conceptualisation and design of the study. QG and RZ contributed to data analysis and interpretation of data, with major contributions from QG. QG drafted the manuscript, and CSJ, SM, GT and HC critically revised it.

  • Funding This submission was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81803102). The funder had no role in study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, writing of the report, and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.