Promoting patient-centred fundamental care in acute healthcare systems

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

126 Citations (Scopus)


Meeting patients' fundamental care needs is essential for optimal safety and recovery and positive experiences within any healthcare setting. There is growing international evidence, however, that these fundamentals are often poorly executed in acute care settings, resulting in patient safety threats, poorer and costly care outcomes, and dehumanising experiences for patients and families. Whilst care standards and policy initiatives are attempting to address these issues, their impact has been limited. This discussion paper explores, through a series of propositions, why fundamental care can be overlooked in sophisticated, high technology acute care settings. We argue that the central problem lies in the invisibility and subsequent devaluing of fundamental care. Such care is perceived to involve simple tasks that require little skill to execute and have minimal impact on patient outcomes. The propositions explore the potential origins of this prevailing perception, focusing upon the impact of the biomedical model, the consequences of managerial approaches that drive healthcare cultures, and the devaluing of fundamental care by nurses themselves. These multiple sources of invisibility and devaluing surrounding fundamental care have rendered the concept underdeveloped and misunderstood both conceptually and theoretically. Likewise, there remains minimal role clarification around who should be responsible for and deliver such care, and a dearth of empirical evidence and evidence-based metrics. In explicating these propositions, we argue that key to transforming the delivery of acute healthcare is a substantial shift in the conceptualisation of fundamental care. The propositions present a cogent argument that counters the prevailing perception that fundamental care is basic and does not require systematic investigation. We conclude by calling for the explicit valuing and embedding of fundamental care in healthcare education, research, practice and policy. Without this re-conceptualisation and subsequent action, poor quality, depersonalised fundamental care will prevail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Caring
  • Fundamentals of care
  • Patient safety
  • Patient-centred care


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