Patterns of ‘balancing between hope and despair’ in the diagnostic phase: a grounded theory study of patients on a gastroenterology ward
TypeJournal article; Peer reviewed
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Aim: The aim of the study was to learn how patients going through the diagnostic phase experienced and handled their situation. Background: Many studies report about the stressful diagnostic phase; however, none has presented a conceptual theory where the concepts are sufficiently related to each other. The Theory of Preparative Waiting has previously been published as a descriptive grounded theory and describes the experience of a group of gastroenterology patients going through the diagnostic phase. Method: A classical grounded theory design was used, with data derived from 18 in-depth interviews with 15 patients in a gastroenterology ward at a Norwegian University Hospital. Interviews were conducted during 2002–2003. Findings: Participants’ main concern was found to be how they could prepare themselves for the concluding interview and life after diagnosis. The theoretical code of ‘balancing’ had four patterns; controlling pain, rational awaiting, denial, and accepting. These patterns of ‘balancing’ guided how participants used the categories of ‘Preparative Waiting Theory’ ‘seeking and giving information’, ‘interpreting clues’, ‘handling existential threats’ and ‘seeking respite’. Patterns were strategies, so one person could use more than one pattern. Conclusion: The diagnostic phase was a difficult time for the participants and the ‘Preparative Waiting Theory’ can assist nurses in assessing how patients prepare themselves differently for getting a diagnosis. All patients would find it helpful to be followed up by a designated contact person at the ward; however, patients using mostly the patterns of controlling pain and denial would benefit most from such support.