Role of relatives of ethnic minority patients in patient safety in hospital care: A qualitative study

Floor Van Rosse*, Jeanine Suurmond, Cordula Wagner, Martine De Bruijne, Marie Louise Essink-Bot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)



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. 


Four large urban hospitals with an ethnic diverse patient population. 


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.


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. 


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number009052
JournalBMJ open
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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