A companionship between strangers: patient-patient interaction in oncology wards

Research output: Book/Report/PhD thesisBookResearch


The study presented here sets out to investigate the importance of patient-patient interaction between cancer patients in a hospital setting. When patients are hospitalised in a two-bed or multiple-bed room, they spend a significant amount of time together. Only a few studies have investigated the importance of interaction between hospitalised patients with cancer.
Methods: A qualitative design was applied. Firstly, by doing a qualitative meta-synthesis we accumulated previous knowledge. Secondly, qualitative fieldwork was performed with participant observation and semi-structured individual interviews inspired by ethnography. Data were collected from patients hospitalised in two oncology wards in two Danish hospitals. A total of 85 participants were observed, with ten men and ten women participating in interviews. Inductive thematic analysis strategies were applied.
Findings: The qualitative meta-synthesis showed that interaction between hospitalised patients was characterised by ambiguity. Fellow patients were perceived as enforced companions – but also as experts on illness and hospital life, and as care providers.
The fieldwork showed that hospitalisation with fellow patients promoted the potential for learning by sharing experiences with fellow patients. Learning from the exchange of experiences with fellow patients provided an understanding of the disease because information provided by the personal experiences of fellow patients complemented and expanded on information given by healthcare professionals. Sharing their experiences meant that patients of both sexes oscillated between various responses to learning situations. Sharing experiences also promoted support among the patients. Gender differences were identified in both learning and support.
The predominant conditions of the hospital environment caused strain but also offered the possibility of good company and support from fellow patients. Refuge from fellow patients was hard to achieve, and the fact that personal conversations were overheard by fellow patients caused some patients to withhold information from healthcare professionals. Nevertheless, patients accepted the hospital environment.
Conclusion: Findings from the fieldwork provided new knowledge about interaction between hospitalised cancer patients. Patients regarded interaction with fellow patients as positive and as a source of information, help and emotional support. In spite of the strain imposed by the hospital environment, 18 out of 20 patients preferred multiple-bed rooms with the company of fellow patients.
Original languageDanish
Place of PublicationAarhus
PublisherAarhus Universitet
Number of pages154
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2013
SeriesPublikation fra Afdeling for Sygeplejevidenskab, Aarhus Universitet


  • patients

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