Vulnerability and security in seriously ill patients in intensive care

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Journal Article
Intensive and Critical Care Nursing, 2002, 18 (1), pp. 27 - 36
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The purpose of this research was to gain an understanding of the experience of being a seriously ill patient in an intensive care unit (ICU). Fourteen former patients, aged 17-71 years old, who had been in ICU 3-53 days, participated in focus group interviews 3-6 months after discharge. The focus groups met 3 times each for 1.5 hours, resulting in 13-14 hours of audiotaped discussions. The transcribed data were qualitatively analysed to identify themes representing participants' experiences. Vulnerability emerged as a central concept that captured the identified themes. The data reveal that patient vulnerability while in ICU was related to extreme physical and emotional dependency. Lack of information and depersonalizing care were associated with fear, anxiety and increased vulnerability. Lack of sleep and rest also contributed to patient fear and anxiety. Vulnerability decreased when patients were kept informed of what was occurring while in ICU, received care that was personalized to their individual needs, and when their families were present. The results of this study suggest that ICU patients' vulnerability may be decreased by the security that they experience when they are adequately informed about what is happening, and when nursing and medical care is personalized to their individual needs. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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