Background: Integrity is a complex and important concept in ethical reasoning and in nursing care. Integrity is part of being a human being, a wholeness, and in this sense it also refers to health. Preserving patients' integrity is an important aspect of nursing care, as a number of situations arise in which they can feel threatened or violated. Integrity can also refer to acting according to general ethical principles and rules, i.e. moral integrity.
Aim: The aim of this Swedish study was to describe how male patients conceive integrity.
Methods: Seventeen male patients were strategically selected for interviews, which were analysed by a phenomenographical approach.
Findings: The patients expressed 12 different conceptions of integrity that were summarized into three description categories: self-respect, dignity and confidence. This means that patients give themselves integrity when they believe in themselves, have the courage to set boundaries, have control over themselves and their situation, and have the possibility of being alone. Caregivers can preserve a patient's integrity by seeing him as trustworthy and as a whole person, and by showing respect. Confidence in a caring situation is characterized by trust in professionals, a balance between patients' and the caregivers' wishes, patient participation, the possibility of being free and confidentiality of information.
Discussion: Integrity could be described as what something 'is' and as a 'relationship' with oneself and others. It is imperative that caregivers are aware of patients' conceptions of integrity in order to identify and preserve their integrity and also so that they treat them in accordance with moral integrity. The findings are limited to male patients, and questions about female patients' conceptions are raised.