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Patients lived experience of momentary encounters with staff that made a difference
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The nature of patient encounters in hospital accounts for hospital as a un homelike space which contributes to how encounters with staff are structured, and moments of care arise. In exploring the meaning of patients ‘momentary encounters’ with staff in hospital I seek to uncover what made a difference to their lived experience, to deepen our understanding of what constitutes making a difference. The interpretive phenomenology underpinning this study is guided by Heidegger’s notion of being in the world together and throwness, which reflects how, were as human beings in the world. Adding to this is Levinas notion of encountering others face to face and being called to respond to ease suffering as key to patient encounters in hospital. Analysis of text was guided by van Manen’s existential aspects of lived body, time, space, relationship and actional aspects in relation to pathic practices in health care. Seven European New Zealanders, aged 20 – 82 from a semi rural population who had a variety of experiences associated with hospital care. Gathering their stories occurred through in depth, personal conversations using open ended questions. These were taped and later transcribed by the researcher to enable engaging with the data more deeply and collect anecdotes which formed the study data. Finding what is hidden within a moment of care was disclosed through two main themes; the first theme Relating-to containing the sub themes; being there/with, being known, distraction and the unexpectedness of encounters. The second theme Attending-to contained the sub themes; just knowing, the little things, ordinariness and temporality in encounters that were unasked for. Each theme consisted of a number of dimensions that occurred singularly or multiply in the moments that made a difference. In delivering care to patients we enter a space of joined-ness that is human in nature, recognising the qualities in each other that connect us in-the-moment. It appears that the heart of what matters to patients remains the relationship and simple, small actions of comfort care as foundations that appear to gain significance beyond their seeming simplicity for patients when performed in hospital. It offers a challenge to balance the technicality of the hospital space with the human needs of patients and their families, including how time is viewed in hospital as under pinning the structure and delivery of patient care.