Dignity is inherent to all human beings and is perceived by society as a basic human right. Patients' dignity is a core value imbedded in the nursing profession. The dignity of nurses, specifically their professional dignity, has only come to the fore lately. It is a phenomenon worth exploring because nurses are seen as cornerstones for providing healthcare.
Nurses, who are treated with dignity and respect, want to provide the best possible care to their patients. They honour their profession and are driven to quality nursing care. When the professional dignity of nurses is disregarded, they become despondent, perceiving themselves as being unworthy inferior professionals. They might then find it challenging to render good quality nursing care. Healthcare environments are demanding, target-driven and potentially unsupportive of nurses' professional dignity. It is thus crucial to identify ways to preserve nurses' professional dignity.
This research answered the question on the support needed by nurses to enable them to preserve their professional dignity in the demanding environment of private healthcare.
The research approach was qualitative within a constructivist paradigm. During the initial phase of the study, descriptive phenomenological research was conducted to arrive at a detailed understanding of nurses' experiences of factors that impacted on their professional dignity. Rich and deeply rooted descriptions were gathered from 11 professional nurses in two selected private healthcare facilities through unstructured phenomenological individual interviews.
During phase 2 of the study, the researcher used the findings of phase 1 to formulate strategies to preserve the professional dignity of nurses. Healthcare professionals (professional nurses, managers and members of the health team) refined the strategies during two focus group interviews. Findings
The findings uncovered nurses' experiences of factors impacting on their professional dignity. Demanding work environments deprived nurses from meaningful patient engagements and care. Support, appreciation and respect contributed to the professional dignity of nurses. Experiences of being humiliated, as autonomous and respected professionals, were also reported. Strategies, developed during phase 2, brought to light multiple future possibilities to preserve the professional dignity of nurses. The strategies presented future pathways for managers, members of the health team and nurses to: value nurses' professional dignity; curtail work experiences which are contradictory to nurses' desire to prioritise patient care; enable nurses to remain proud of themselves and their profession; adopt a management style to support, appreciate and respect nurses; support nurses to function optimally in complex and demanding situations; support nurses in fulfilling their expected professional roles; honour nurses' desiring to value patient well-being as their first priority; and support nurses to cope with humiliating experiences in their work environment.
Preserving the professional dignity of nurses is crucial in private healthcare facilities. Strategies that could aid healthcare facilities to preserve nurses' professional dignity have been developed, based on the findings of the current study, and presented in the final chapters of the thesis.