Background: Today, many patients undergo surgical procedures in a day surgery setting. The shift from inpatient care to care at the patients' own home following discharge places various demands on patients and their families during the recovery process. There is a need for knowledge of how the postoperative recovery process is perceived, as research indicates a lack of support for patients managing recovery at home.
Objective: To explore day surgery patients' different perceptions of postoperative recovery.
Design: A qualitative design with a phenomenographic approach was used.
Methods and settings: Semi-structured interviews with 31 patients undergoing an orthopaedic, general or urologic day surgical procedure were carried out face to face at the patients' homes, 11-37 days post-discharge. Patients were recruited from two day surgery settings: one private unit and one unit associated with a local county hospital.
Results: The patients perceived postoperative recovery as comprising internal and external prerequisites and implying changes in ordinary life with varying levels of support. The effective production at the day surgery unit was perceived as having an impact on patients' prerequisites for recovery. The results are elucidated in three descriptive categories: 'Conditions for recovery at home', 'The rollback to ordinary life' and 'Being a cog in a flow of care'.
Conclusions: The postoperative phase seems to be a weak link in day surgery care. From the patients' perspective, postoperative recovery following day surgery implies extensive responsibility at home. Patients need knowledge and understanding concerning what constitutes the normal range in recovery and how to manage self-care following their specific surgical procedure.
Keywords: Ambulatory surgical procedures; Patient satisfaction; Phenomenography; Postoperative period; Qualitative research; Self-care.
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