Emotional distress and adjustment in patients with end-stage kidney disease: a qualitative exploration of patient experience in four hospital trusts in the West Midlands, UK

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Colleges, School and Institutes



To explore patient perceptions and experiences of mild-to-moderate emotional distress and the support offered by kidney units to patients with end-stage kidney disease.



In-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews with patients (n = 46) being treated for end-stage kidney disease in four hospital Trusts, with data analysed thematically.



Patients described multiple sources of distress and talked about the substantial burden that emotional challenges raised for their ability to manage their condition and develop coping strategies. Many patients did not feel it appropriate to disclose their emotional issues to staff on the kidney unit, due to a perceived lack of time for staff to deal with such issues, or a perception that staff lacked the necessary skills to provide resolution. Five themes were identified from the patient interviews, broadly related to patients’ experience of distress, and the support offered by the kidney unit: i) the emotional burden that distress placed on patients; ii) patients’ relationship with the treatment for their condition; iii) strategies for coping and adjustment; iv) patient-staff interactions and the support offered by the kidney unit, and v) the mediating impact of the treatment environment on patient experience of distress and their ability to raise emotional issues with staff.



Many patients felt unprepared for the likelihood of experiencing emotional issues as part of their condition, for which pre-dialysis education could help in managing expectations, along with support to help patients to develop appropriate coping strategies and adjustments. These findings demonstrate the importance of recognising patient distress and ensuring that talking about distress becomes normalised for patients with end-stage kidney disease.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0241629
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2020