In the context of the advancement of person-centered care models, the promotion of the participation of patients with chronic illness and complex care needs in the management of their care (self-management) is increasingly seen as a responsibility of primary care nurses. It is emphasized that nurses should consider the psychosocial dimensions of chronic illness and the client’s lifeworld. Little is known about how nurses shape this task in practice.
The aim of this analysis is to examine how primary care nurses understand and shape the participation of patients with chronic illness and complex care needs regarding the promotion of self-management. Guided interviews were conducted with nurses practicing in primary care and key informants in Germany, Spain, and Brazil with a subsequent cross-case evaluation. Interpretive and practice patterns were identified based on Grounded Theory.
Two interpretive and practice patterns were identified: (1) Giving clients orientation in dealing with chronic diseases and (2) supporting the integration of illness in clients’ everyday lives. Nurses in the first pattern consider it their most important task to provide guidance toward health-promoting behavior and disease-related decision-making by giving patients comprehensive information. Interview partners emphasize client autonomy, but rarely consider the limitations chronic disease imposes on patients’ everyday lives. Alternatively, nurses in the second pattern regard clients as cooperation partners. They seek to familiarize themselves with their clients’ social environments and habits to give recommendations for dealing with the disease that are as close to the client’s lifeworld as possible. Nurses’ recommendations seek to enable patients and their families to lead a largely ‘normal life’ despite chronic illness. While interview partners in Brazil or Spain point predominantly to clients’ socio-economic disadvantages as a challenge to promoting client participation in primary health care, interview partners in Germany maintain that clients’ high disease burden represents the chief barrier to self-management.
Nurses in practice should be sensitive to client’s lifeworlds, as well as to challenges that arise as they attempt to strengthen clients’ participation in care and self-management. Regular communication between clients, nurses, and further professionals should constitute a fundamental feature of person-centered primary care models.