Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Role of relatives of ethnic minority patients in patient safety in hospital care: a qualitative study
  1. Floor van Rosse1,2,
  2. Jeanine Suurmond1,
  3. Cordula Wagner2,3,
  4. Martine de Bruijne2,
  5. Marie-Louise Essink-Bot1
  1. 1Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Center (VUmc), EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  3. 3NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Floor van Rosse; f.vanrosse{at}


Objective Relatives of ethnic minority patients often play an important role in the care process during hospitalisation. Our objective was to analyse the role of these relatives in relation to the safety of patients during hospital care.

Setting Four large urban hospitals with an ethnic diverse patient population.

Participants On hospital admission of ethnic minority patients, 20 cases were purposively sampled in which relatives were observed to play a role in the care process.

Outcome measures We used documents (patient records) and added eight cases with qualitative interviews with healthcare providers, patients and/or their relatives to investigate the relation between the role of relatives and patient safety. An inductive approach followed by selective coding was used to analyse the data.

Results Besides giving social support, family members took on themselves the role of the interpreter, the role of substitutes of the patient and the role of care provider. The taking over of these roles can have positive and negative effects on patient safety.

Conclusions When family members take over various roles during hospitalisation of a relative, this can lead to a safety risk and a safety protection for the patient involved. Although healthcare providers should not hand over their responsibilities to the relatives of patients, optimising collaboration with relatives who are willing to take part in the care process may improve patient safety.


This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.