Examining Waiting Placement in Hospital: Utilization and the Lived Experience

  •  Donna Wilson    
  •  Jill Vihos    
  •  Jessica Hewitt    
  •  Nancy Barnes    
  •  Karen Peterson    
  •  Ralph Magnus    


This mixed-methods study addressed the problem that although waiting placement is considered a major hospital utilization issue, minimal evidence exists to highlight the extent of it and the personal impact of waiting placement. An analysis of two years of complete hospital data for the Canadian province of Alberta was undertaken to examine waiting placement rates and describe waiting placement patients. Qualitative interviews and observations of elderly patients waiting in hospital for nursing home placement were also undertaken to gain an understanding of the lived experience of waiting for placement in hospital. Only 1.8% of all inpatients were waiting placement with an ALC (Alternative Level of Care) designation, 80% of ALC waits were less than 41 days (mean=29.85, median=14), and 2.2% of total hospital bed days in these two years were used by ALC patients. Three qualitative themes emerged: (a) coming to a realization of this significant move, (b) waiting is boring and distressing, and (c) hospitals are not designed for waiting placement. The findings of this study should raise awareness that although relatively few people wait placement in hospital, there are some major possible negative effects of waiting for placement in hospital for those who wait; with remedies to address waiting placement care deficits needed.

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