The aim of this study was to perform a systematic review of the impact of waiting for elective surgery from the patient perspective, with a focus on maximum tolerance, quality of life, and the nature of the waiting experience. Searches were conducted using Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, and HealthSTAR. Twenty-seven original research articles were identified which included each of these three themes. The current literature suggested that first, patients tend to state longer wait times as unacceptable when they experienced severe symptoms or functional impairment. Second, the relationship between length of wait and health-related quality of life depended on the nature and severity of proposed surgical intervention at the time of booking. Third, the waiting experience was consistently described as stressful and anxiety provoking. While many patients expressed anger and frustration at communication within the system, the experience of waiting was not uniformly negative. Some patients experienced waiting as an opportunity to live full lives despite pain and disability. The relatively unexamined relationship between waiting, illness and patient experience of time represents an area for future research.
Keywords: literature review; patient perspective; scheduled surgery; wait time.