Untangling Intimate Care Experiences for Patients Admitted to Public Hospitals in South Africa

Simangele Shakwane1 , * Open Modal Authors Info & Affiliations
The Open Nursing Journal 09 May 2023 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/18744346-v17-230405-2022-169



Hospital admission can be a traumatic and humiliating experience for patients due to the institutionalised attire they must wear. Intimate care may trigger experiences of helplessness and disrespect due to exposure to their body parts and having to be touched by nurses.


This research aimed to explore and describe patients’ perceptions of their bodies and their experiences of intimate care execution during their hospital stay.


A qualitative explorative-descriptive design and Trauma-informed care framework were used to explore and describe the participants’ perceptions and experiences of intimate care execution during admission to the two sampled hospitals. Twenty participants admitted to medical and surgical units were purposively recruited. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews, and thematic analysis was used to give meaning to the data.


Three overarching themes emerged from the data: the sacredness of the human body; Patients want their dignity to be respected during intimate care and touch; and creating the nurse-patient intimate care relationship. Patients wish the nurses to maintain their dignity and privacy. Intimate care and touch should be initiated in a safe environment where patients can make informed decisions.

Implications for Nursing:

Declothing of personal attire during admission violates patients’ dignity and privacy and is dehumanising. During intimate care and touch, nurses should create a cultural, religious and gender safe environment, allowing inpatients to make informed decisions regarding the care provided to their bodies.


Patients’ beliefs system should be incorporated into autonomy and informed decisions about the care to be provided to naked bodies. Hospitalisation should not reinforce physical and psychological trauma. Respect and dignity are paramount when caring for the patient’s body.

Keywords: Intimate care, Patient, Trauma-informed care, Touch, Culture, Religion.
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