Exploring critically ill patients' and their relatives' experiences of intensive care unit during COVID-19: A qualitative study

Lene Lehmkuhl*, Maja Stensdal Munck, Mette Juel Rothmann, Anne Dichmann Sorknæs


Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Background: Admission to an intensive care unit has physiological and psychological consequences for patients and families, including the family's fear that the patient might die. The COVID-19 pandemic underlined this and furthermore involved visiting restrictions separating patients and families. Aim: To explore how patients with confirmed COVID-19 and their relatives experienced an intensive care unit stay and its significance for family dynamics. Study Design: A qualitative study was performed during the spring of 2020. Five dyadic interviews were conducted with COVID-19 patients admitted to an intensive care unit and their relatives. The analysis was inspired by Hochman's dyadic analysis. Findings: The analysis revealed three themes: (1) From ill to critically ill: The trauma of separation and fear of losing loved ones; (2) The relatives' significant role in creating a shared coherent understanding of the admission in ICU due to COVID-19; (3) The nurses' roles as a go-between in maintenance of the family dynamic. Conclusion: Separation challenged family function and destabilized family dynamics. Nurses provided emotional support, information about and contact with the patient and relatives. The patients' distorted perception of reality and lack of memory were reconstructed in new family narratives, which offered relief and stabilization of family dynamics. The nurses entered into a triad with the patient and relatives, which also contributed to maintaining a relational dynamic in the family. Relevance to Clinical Practice: Maintaining communication between health professionals, relatives and patients, and usage of virtual visits during intensive care unit stay can support the family relationship. Nurse therapeutic conversations might help families' in redefining their family dynamics after ICU admission.

TidsskriftNursing in Critical Care
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)427-437
StatusUdgivet - mar. 2024


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