Although Swedish legislation prescribes equity in healthcare, studies have reported inequalities, both in face-to-face encounters and in telephone nursing. Research has suggested that telephone nursing has the capability to increase equity in healthcare, as it is open to all and not limited by long distances. However, this requires an increased awareness of equity in healthcare among telephone nurses.
The aim of this study was to explore and describe perceptions of equity in healthcare among Swedish telephone nurses who had participated in an educational intervention on equity in health, including which of the power constructs gender, ethnicity and age they commented upon most frequently. Further, the aim was to develop a conceptual model for obtaining equity in healthcare, based on the results of the empirical investigation.
A qualitative method was used. Free text comments from questionnaires filled out by 133 telephone nurses before and after an educational intervention on equity in health, as well as individual interviews with five participants, were analyzed qualitatively. The number of comments related to inequity based on gender, ethnicity or age in the free text comments was counted descriptively.
Gender was the factor commented upon the least and ethnicity the most. Four concepts were found through the qualitative analysis: Denial, Defense, Openness, and Awareness. Some informants denied inequity in healthcare in general, and in telephone nursing in particular. Others acknowledged it, but argued that they had workplace routines that protected against it. There were also examples of an openness to the fact that inequity existed and a willingness to learn and prevent it, as well as an already high awareness of inequity in healthcare.
A conceptual model was developed in which the four concepts were divided into two qualitatively different blocks, with Denial and Defense on one side of a continuum and Openness and Awareness on the other. In order to reach equity in healthcare, action is also needed, and that concept was therefore added to the model. The result can be used as a starting point when developing educational interventions for healthcare personnel.