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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Spouses’ experiences of having a mate in the Intensive Care Unit following coronary artery bypass graft surgery Cozac, JoAnn Lee


It is generally recognized that a serious illness with concurrent hospitalization in an ICU will have an impact on family members. Few researchers, however, have described the ways in which spouses are affected when their mates are hospitalized in an ICU. Therefore, this study aimed to describe and explain the spouses' experiences of having a mate in an ICU following coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Kleinman's conceptual framework guided the development of the research question and provided the focus for data collection and analysis. Kleinman proposes that an understanding of the client's perspective is necessary for the provision of effective health care. A qualitative research method based on the theoretical perspective of phenomenology was used to answer the research question. The spouses' viewpoints were elicited through unstructured interviews. The sample consisted of seven spouses, four women and three men. The spouses were interviewed on two occasions, once while their mate was still in the ICU and once shortly following their mate's discharge from the ICU. A total of 13 in-depth interviews were conducted over a 3 month period. Data were analyzed simultaneously with and following data collection. Responses that were similar were grouped together into categories. After the data were examined and sorted into categories, the researcher defined the theme that dominated each category. The themes that emerged from the data were clarified, validated, and/or rejected by the participants during subsequent interviews. As relationships between the categories were identified, the important aspects of the spouses' experiences became apparent. The findings revealed that the spouses located the ICU experience within the context of their experience with their mate's coronary artery bypass graft surgery. The spouses understood and made sense of the ICU experience by attaching meaning to specific events that related to the entire surgical experience. They perceived the surgical experience as consisting of three distinct but interrelated phases: pre-surgery; waiting during surgery; and post-surgery. During each phase, the spouses described and explained how they reacted to and coped with each new situation. These two themes, "reaction to the situation" and "coping with the situation," appeared as threads throughout the entire surgical experience. By organizing the data in relation to phases and themes, the researcher was able to meaningfully understand and communicate the spouses' entire surgical experience. In view of the study findings, implications for nursing practice, education and research are delineated.

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