Stressors in ICU: perception of the patient, relatives and health care team

Intensive Care Med. 1999 Dec;25(12):1421-6. doi: 10.1007/s001340051091.


Objective: To compare the evaluation of the stressors present in the intensive care unit (ICU) from the point of view of the patient, relatives and the multiprofessional team and to identify differences and similarities with regard to the perception of stressors in order to optimize patient care.

Design: Cross-sectional analytical survey.

Setting: General ICU of a private hospital.

Patients and participants: From April 1st to June 30th, 1996, 50 ICU patients during the first week of their ICU stay, 50 of their respective relatives and 50 members of the professional team directly involved in the care of these patients.

Measurements and results: The Intensive Care Unit Environmental Stressor Scale (ICUESS) was administered to all patients. The relatives and health care professionals were asked to complete the ICUESS on the basis of their perception of the patient's stressors. Being in pain, having tubes in the nose or mouth, being restrained by tubes and being unable to sleep were considered by the patients, relatives and health care professionals as the main stressors. The professional team evaluated the intensity of the stressors higher than either the family or the patient. No statistical significance was detected between the intensity of the stressors as evaluated by the patient and the intensity evaluated by relatives and by the professional team.

Conclusions: Being in pain, being unable to sleep and having tubes in the nose and/or mouth were pointed out as the major stressors by the three groups. There was no statistically significant correlation between the total stress scores of the patients and their relatives (r = 0.193), between the patients and the team (r = -0.002), or between the total scores of the team and the relatives (r = -0.185). The results suggest that the views of the relatives and the professional team concerning the stressors have some similar points compared to the evaluation made by the patient himself, although the intensity of the evaluation for each group corresponds to its own perception.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Care / psychology*
  • Critical Illness / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*