Personal autonomy in discharge planning decision -making in mentally alert hospitalized elderly individuals: The social workers' perspective

Beatriz Huaroto Murdock, Florida International University

Abstract

This study was conducted to understand (a) hospital social workers' perspectives about patients' personal autonomy and self-determination, (b) their experiences, and (c) their beliefs and behaviors. The study used the maximum variation sampling strategy to select hospitals and hospital social work respondents. Individual interviews were conducted with 31 medical/surgical and mental health hospital social workers who worked in 13 hospitals. The data suggest the following four points. First, the hospital setting as an outside influence as it relates to illness and safety, and its four categories, mentally alert patients, family members, health care professionals, and social work respondents, seems to enhance or diminish patients' autonomy in discharge planning decision making. Second, respondents report they believe patients must be safe both inside and outside the hospital. In theory, respondents support autonomy and self-determination, respect patients' wishes, and believe patients are the decision makers. However, in practice, respondents respect autonomy and self-determination to a point. Third, a model, The Patient's Decision in Discharge Planning: A Continuum, is presented where a safe discharge plan is at one end of a continuum, while an unsafe discharge plan is at the other end. Respondents respect personal autonomy and the patient's self-determination to a point. This point is likely to be located in a gray area where the patient's decision crosses from one end of the continuum to the other. When patients decide on an unsafe discharge plan, workers' interventions range from autonomy to paternalism. And fourth, the hospital setting as an outside influence may not offer the best opportunity for patients to make decisions (a) because of beliefs family members and health care professionals hold about the value of patient self-determination, and (b) because patients may not feel free to make decisions in an environment where they are surrounded by family members, health care professionals, and social work respondents who have power and who think they know best. Workers need to continue to educate elderly patients about their right to self-determination in the hospital setting. ^

Subject Area

Social Work

Recommended Citation

Beatriz Huaroto Murdock, "Personal autonomy in discharge planning decision -making in mentally alert hospitalized elderly individuals: The social workers' perspective" (January 1, 2003). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3125048.
http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3125048

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