The objective of this study was to explore patients’ experiences when preparing for and undergoing general surgery at a large tertiary hospital. Findings aimed to inform the development of a prehabilitation program to empower patients to optimize their recovery and enhance their experience of general surgery. A qualitative exploratory research approach was utilized. Patients (>18 years) attending for elective general surgery between May and July 2018 were invited to participate. Four focus groups (n=18) and an interview were conducted to reach saturation. Deductive content analysis was used to map responses against theoretical determinants of health behavior change. Patients described their overall experience of general surgery as positive but provided key insights about the surgical journey that impacted their capability, opportunity and motivation to optimally engage and address their recovery. Interaction and information from health professionals, understanding expectations, timely access to treatment and support of family members greatly enhanced their experience. Lack of personalized exercise and nutrition prescriptions, access to shared patient experiences of the surgical journey and not being asked about personal goals were key inhibitors. Patients also expressed feelings of frustration and anxiety regarding hospital procedures, including repetitive gathering of information and poor communication across departments. Patients’ experiences of the surgical journey identified gaps that impacted their capability, opportunity and motivation to effectively prepare and rehabilitate, that could be addressed by a multimodal prehabilitation program. Intervention options at patient and policy level were identified for trial to enhance the patient experience of general surgery.

Experience Framework

This article is associated with the Patient, Family & Community Engagement lens of The Beryl Institute Experience Framework (https://www.theberylinstitute.org/ExperienceFramework).