Opting in and opting out: A grounded theory of nursing's contribution to inpatient rehabilitation

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Aim: To develop a grounded theory of nursing’s contribution to patient rehabilitation from the perspective of nurses working in inpatient rehabilitation. Design: Grounded theory method, informed by the theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism, was used to guide data collection and analysis, and the development of a grounded theory. Setting: Five inpatient rehabilitation units in Australia. Participants: Thirty-five registered and 18 enrolled nurses participated in audio-taped interviews and/or were observed during periods of their everyday practice. Findings: The analysis revealed a situation whereby nurses made decisions about when to ‘opt in’ and when to ‘opt out’ of inpatient rehabilitation. This occurred on two levels: with their interaction with patients and allied health professionals, and when faced with negative system issues that impacted on their ability to contribute to patient rehabilitation. The primary contribution nurses made to inpatient rehabilitation was working directly with patients, enabling them to self-care. Nurses coached patients when their decisions about ‘opting in’ and ‘opting out’ were based on assessment of the person in their particular context. In contrast, the nurses mostly distanced themselves from system-based problems, ‘opting out’ of addressing them. They did this not to make their working lives easier, but more manageable. Conclusion: System-based problems impacted negatively on the nurses’ ability to deliver comprehensive rehabilitation care. As a consequence, some nurses felt unable to influence the care and they withdrew professionally to make their work lives more manageable.

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Journal Article

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