Patients' experiences eating in a hospital – A qualitative study

Karen L. Larsen, Brigitte Schjøtler, Dorte Melgaard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: Even though there is a lot of focus on nutrition in hospitals, patients often continue to lose weight during their stay. A meal is a complex activity. Several factors have an influence on the intake of nutrition. The purpose of the study is to identify the experiences of patients about eating situations, wishes and needs in connection with meals during their stay in the hospital. Methods: Twenty individual semi structured interviews were conducted at the North Denmark Regional Hospital and Aalborg University Hospital, Thisted. The inclusion criteria were age ≥18, cognitively and linguistically capable of participating and able to consume food ≥24 h. The participants were selected based on sex, age, and surgical and medical departments to ensure a broad representation. Results: The patients experienced that the health professionals were friendly and caring and the food was really good. Despite general satisfaction, the patients reported many different experiences that are presented in the following themes: “The care relationship,” “Meeting the system,” “Influence from the surroundings,” and “Social interaction with fellow patients and physical discomfort”. The care relationship is considered to be essential. Some patients felt that they were met by helpful and accommodating health professionals while others felt rejected and corrected. The patients reacted to the health professionals being busy by adapting their expectations to the system and accepting the conditions. Hospital surroundings with catheter bags and IV drips influenced the patients and diminished their desire for food. The physical surroundings could make it difficult to sit comfortably when eating. Some patients wanted the company of other patients during their meal but would like to be able to choose with whom they shared their meals. Some patients tended to feel exposed and found it undignified and preferred to eat alone. Conclusions: The study indicates that it is important to ensure individual settings for the patients during meals and the focus should be on the relationship between patients and health professionals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Nutrition ESPEN
Pages (from-to)469-475
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism


  • Adaption
  • Dignity
  • Meal service
  • Nutrition
  • Patient perspective
  • Power


Dive into the research topics of 'Patients' experiences eating in a hospital – A qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this