Feeling understood for the first time: experiences of participation in rehabilitation after out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest

Mette Kirstine Wagner, Selina Kikkenborg Berg, Christian Hassager, Vicky Joshi, Dea Siggaard Stenbæk, Malene Missel

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AIMS: Survivors of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) may suffer from long-term cognitive, psychological, or physical post-arrest consequences impacting and disrupting daily life. To adjust to and manage daily life is critical, and therefore a tailored rehabiliation programme was introduced to the participants. The study aimed to explore the lived experience among cardiac arrest survivors.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Data were gathered through six focus group interviews during a cardiac arrest rehabilitation programme. Thirty-three out-of-hospital SCA survivors (8 women and 25 men) participated. Time since cardiac arrest was on average 12-57 months. An exploratory qualitative design inspired by Ricoeur's phenomenological hermeneutics was applied. Two main themes emerged from the analysis and interpretation: (i) a lack of support from the health system in the transition from hospital to daily life; and (ii) feeling understood for the first time. The findings revealed that out-of-hospital SCA survivors experience a knowledge gap struggling for support. Attending the programme, gaining knowledge and experiencing peer support was described as a revelation for them.

CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that out-of-hospital SCA survivors felt understood for the first time when attending a cardiac arrest rehabilitation programme. A post-arrest pathway is needed led by a coordinating cardiac arrest specialist nursing service together with allied healthcare professionals. Focus on hypoxic brain injuries, emotional burdens, and supportive strategies are essential in the transition to daily life. Facilitated peer support is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)767-774
Publication statusPublished - 28. Nov 2021


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