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What is the impact of ICU syndrome experienced by a critically ill patient from the perspective of the family member? Shorthouse, Lucille Jeanne Christine


ICU syndrome is a mental syndrome of acute onset that occurs in some patients in a critical care unit. This syndrome continues to occur frequently and serves to increase both morbidity and mortality in affected patients. Despite the continued occurrence a" limited amount of information is known about the effects on the patients, and nothing is known about the effects on family members. A literature review indicates no specific qualitative studies had been conducted in this area. Some related research studies indicated that a critical illness affects not only the patient but family members as well. A critical illness compounded by ICU syndrome, can have the potential for long-term effects for both the patient and the family. This study was designed to gain an understanding of ICU syndrome from the perspective of the family members. A qualitative descriptive methodology was used to guide this study. This approach was guided by the assumption that people do make order and sense of their environment although this world may appear disoriented and nonsensical to others. Ten family members of patients who experienced ICU syndrome agreed to participate in this study. Interviews were conducted on two separate occasions. Analysis of the data revealed that participants identified 12 major categories of responses in relation to ICU syndrome. The participants identified some responses similar to the literature reviewed, but also brought forth several findings that moved beyond the current literature. These findings indicated that ICU syndrome caused them to take on greater roles in the family unit. Respondents exhibited great strength, cared a great deal for the patient, and demonstrated caring, helpful and supportive roles. These roles were maintained throughout the hospitalization. The occurrence of the syndrome meant that the respondents would need to reassess their plans for the future. Information was needed by the respondents specifically related to the syndrome and this need was not always met adequately by the health care team. The patients exhibited a great deal of trust in the respondents to help them while they were ill and/or suffering from the syndrome. The respondents felt it was important for them to try to make some meaning of the behaviours noted during the syndrome and to pass on this information to the staff who did not know the patient as they did. The findings are discussed in relation to the framework and literature reviewed. Areas that move beyond the information currently known about family members responses are discussed and recommendations for nursing practice included.

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