The Concept Of Dignity In Human Life Nursing Essay


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The aim of this assignment is to explore the significance of the concept of dignity in human life and in nursing practice. Dignity is the important aspect of health and social care. Older adults get more prone to issues related to dignity than the younger adults due to their perception of life. Nurse plays a vital role in maintaining dignity of the patient during hospital stay because it helps in promoting well-being and early rehabilitation of the patient. According to Gallagher et al (2008), dignity is related to one’s identity as a person and is related to self respect and concepts such as integrity, autonomy and inclusion. Respect of rights, cultural and traditional values and patient’s needs or desires is the main concern of a nurse.

Defining the concept

There are many perspectives of dignity which can be found in literature conducted by different authors. According to Mairis (1993), the word ‘Dignity’ is derived from the Latin word ‘dignus’ meaning worthy, is a state of being dignified, elevation of mind or character, grandeur of manner, elevation in rank or place etc. Dignity is to give higher status to a person by give respect because dignity is related to persons, their positions and their actions. Its characteristics of being dignified and actions also asserts that the person maintain his dignity by keeping his position. In the literature by Resnik (2007), Dignity is defined as the idea that human beings have inherent moral values or worth that cannot be measured in terms of a price. The term dignity and moral values are interrelated with each other. The individual who keeps his moral values in his life will be dignified. Moreover, it’s only a worthiness or respect given to an individual which we cannot be measured. Jacobson (2009) describes the dignity as a key concept in different fields like palliative and long-term care and the actions taken to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and promote dignity, while those that violate human rights also violate dignity. The persons, who give full respect and protect human rights of others, promote dignity but sometimes they violate it by undignifying a person. Dignity may be said to exist when an individual is capable of exerting control or choice over his or her behavior, surroundings and the way in which he or she is treated by others (Mairis 1993). In order to be valued or get respect from others, an individual has to give self respect as well as exerts control on behaviour according to the situation. How other people interact with you, is another factor of maintaining dignity. The given concept asserts the characteristics of self control and gives respect to others. According to Jacobson (2009) dignity is defined as a quality of individuals and collectives that is constituted through interactions and interpretations and structured by conditions pertaining to actions, relationships, settings and other broader social order. Dignity is concerned with qualities of individuals such as how he/she deals with others and how others treats and give response to them. His relationship, activities and social status also affect dignity which acts as its characteristics. Schmidt (2007) argued that dignity is not respected in the sense that the crucial capacity of moral agents to agree or disagree with certain forms of treatment is ignored. The above definition is related with nursing. When a nurse does not respect the patient’s moral values, cultural and traditional beliefs during the treatment, nurse cannot be able to maintain dignity in nursing practice. There are certain characteristics of dignity that are position, actions, capacities, qualities, social status of a person and his self control. Schmidt (2007) relates the dignity with humanity, although it is not clear whether this is humanity in the biological sense or in the philosophical and legal sense. Dignity is the respect of humanity but biological, philosophical and legal sense of humanity is not clear. Biological sense means that human has enough capacity to perform various activities during different developmental stages. Philosophical and legal sense means human being has specific capacities and qualities. The literature by O’Mathuna (2006) illustrated that human dignity is altered when they give disrespect to others. Human dignity is affected with the factors that how a human being deals with other humans. We have to dignify others by the way in which we treat them. The above prospective of dignity illustrates that human dignity is essential concept in our life. Moreover, giving respect and worthiness helps in maintaining good interpersonal relationships.

Relevance of hope in nursing practice

Dignity is very important while delivering nursing care. Nurses play a crucial role in providing dignity when caring for older adults in long-term care facilities. Furthermore, maintaining dignity in nursing practice helps in early recovery and gives better outcomes after delivering nursing care. To retain dignity of the patient, nurse has to respect the human rights, moral values, cultural and traditional beliefs in giving treatment to the patient. Every resident has right to be respected as an individual as client’s condition is no bar to consider respect and dignity. Dignity not only means to respect the human rights and moral values but is also to maintain it by giving physical, social, spiritual, psychological and ethical respect to the patient. Gallagher et al. (2008) stated that nurse and other health care professionals are frequently exhorted to respect the dignity of the patients. Respect for dignity appears as a central value within nursing codes and it is a necessary component of ethical health care practice. Attitudes and behaviour of nurses and the way in which care activities are carried out also affect the dignity of the patient. Nurses have to treat the patient as an individual not as an object. Matiti and Trorey (2008) have given six key themes that contribute to the preservation of their dignity, these are: privacy, confidentiality, communication and need for information. This means that nurses has to maintain privacy, maintain good nurse-patient relationship to gain confidence and try to explore the needs and emotional feelings of the patient, as patient’s own prospective will help in developing dignified nursing practice. Nurses have to promote dignity of the patient irrespective of gender, age, race, ability, sex, life style, economic status, cultural and religious beliefs. Patients continually adjust their perceptions of the level of their dignity that needs to be maintained, depending on their circumstances. Nurses and other health care professional’s activities are helpful in assisting clients in the hospital environment through which they promote dignity of the patient. Walsh and Kowanko (2002) define the benefits of better maintenance of dignity are likely to include reduction in patient’s stress and greater confidence in health care and could flow on to better nursing care, reduced length of hospital stay and enhanced patient’s outcomes. Dignity helps in decreasing the disease progression which ultimately reduces hospitalization of the patient. It is a key concept in different kinds of care like palliative and long-term care. Webster and Bryan (2009) suggested that privacy has greater link with dignity and it has four components such as physical, psychological, social and informational. Physical component of privacy includes the bathing and wearing clean clothes to the patient. Psychological and social components are related with fact that in which manner a nurse deals with the patient. The last component that is informational defined that a nurse gives full explanation of procedure before doing it in practice. Some or all of these aspects of privacy may be important in maintaining dignity even during unplanned hospital care. Matiti and Trorey (2008) describes that sometimes communication of nurse with the patient is only task oriented. Nurses start doing things without explaining the procedure to the patient and his family members. Delivering nursing care to the older adults with dignity, make them optimistic, dignified, encouraged and develop a sense of well-being. Behruzi et al. (2010) described some barriers which occur during maintaining dignity of the patient such as poor physical environment, lack of privacy, loss of independence etc. It also revealed the issues which includes staff attitude, nurses being busy, unnecessary exposure of body of patient, the way by which staff address the patient and some environmental factors like curtains not being closed properly. Increased workload on the nurses cause conflict which affects dignity and self worth. Inspite of these barriers, dignity has essential role in the nursing practices.


In conclusion, the meaning, characteristics and barriers of dignity have been analyzed by reviewing literature. Moreover, the concept of dignity’s relevance in nursing practice are identified with its hinders that diminishes the promotion of this concept in healthcare practices. Dignity has significant role in health care delivery. It is a complex phenomenon which is more relevant to older adults and in health care practice. Understanding of dignity is very useful for health care professionals who help in improving the health and wellbeing of patient .Recognition of the patient with respect leads to better health outcomes and better patient’s satisfaction.