Introduction: The aim was to obtain the best available knowledge on stroke survivors' experiences of rehabilitation. The increase in demands for accountability in health care and acknowledgement of the importance of client participation in health decisions calls for systematic ways of integrating this perspective.
Methods and materials: A systematic review of qualitative studies was performed. A literature search in MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and EMBASE was conducted. Suitability for inclusion was based on selected criteria: published qualitative studies written in English from 1990 to 2008 on stroke survivors' experiences of rehabilitation in a clinical setting. Data analysis entailed extracting, editing, grouping, and abstracting findings.
Results: Twelve studies were included. One theme, "Power and Empowerment" and six subcategories were identified: 1) Coping with a new situation, 2) Informational needs, 3) Physical and non-physical needs, 4) Being personally valued and treated with respect, 5) Collaboration with health care professionals and 6) Assuming responsibility and seizing control.
Discussion: The synthesis showed that stroke survivors' experiences of rehabilitation reflected individual and relational aspects of power and empowerment. The capacity to assume power and empowerment was a dynamic rather than a progressive issue, and enabling empowerment was a matter of weighing contrasting issues against each other, e.g. the right to decide versus the right not to decide.