Background: The current treatment preference for patients requiring artificial ventilation is to have them non-sedated whenever feasible. To be aware but unable to communicate is a novel experience for patients and produces problems in nursing. A review of the literature shows that few studies have focused on this significant issue in intensive care nursing.
Aim: To study patient experiences of communication problems during ventilator treatment.
Subjects and methods: Twenty-two consecutive patients treated in an intensive care unit (ICU) were interviewed three times over a 2-month period about their experiences of changes to their communication during ventilator treatment. Structured questionnaires, including open-ended questions were used on each occasion. The registered nurse (RN) in charge of each patient evaluated the extent of communication during the ventilator treatment in a nurse protocol.
Results: Thirteen of the twenty-two patients reported that the RNs were able to understand their needs and wishes during the ventilator treatment. The RNs, however, reported functional communication in nineteen patients. A functional communication was typically related to the use of effective communication methods, while a lack of communication was associated with compromised medical status of the patients.
Discussion: The results suggest the need for detailed examination of patients' potential for effective communication, evaluation of the communication skills of the RNs, and further investigation of devices that can help facilitate communication between RNs and patients during ventilator treatment.
Copyright 2001 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.