Nurses' experiences of psychiatric patients with HIV/AIDS: A study conducted in a psychiatric hospital in the Western Cape

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study aims to explore the experiences of nursing staff who provide treatment and care for psychiatric patients with HIV/AIDS. The study was conducted with a view to understanding the psychological impact of caring for such patients, the additional stressors which may arise as a result of this and how these are dealt with. It was also intended to assist with identifying the needs that staff may have in order to cope with the demands of their work. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine nurses working in the female admission ward of a Western Cape psychiatric hospital. The interview material was analysed to identify common themes which occurred across the interviews concerning participants' experiences, their difficulties and their feelings regarding their work with HIV/AIDS patients. A number of theoretical perspectives were used in analysing and discussing the material, including theories of HIV/AIDS related occupational stress; psychodynamic theory and literature from the field of medical anthropology.The study found that overall, nursing psychiatric patients with HIV/AIDS was experienced as difficult and stressful by participants, and evoked strong emotions of fear and anxiety. The experience of stress in psychiatric HIV/AIDS care was strongly associated with the nature of the work and the anxieties evoked by nursing patients with a terminal, contagious disease. However, the difficulties experienced by participants also appeared to be related to the context of their working environment, and to extend beyond this to the broader social influences of family and community life. The absence of effective support and acknowledgement of these difficulties has resulted in physical symptoms of bum out and the adoption of individual and collective defences in an attempt to cope with the enormous personal and professional challenges of their work.

Bibliography: leaves 91-95.