Relatives' experiences of visiting a conscious, mechanically ventilated patient--a hermeneutic study

Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2010 Apr;26(2):91-100. doi: 10.1016/j.iccn.2009.12.001. Epub 2010 Jan 8.


Background: In recent years, light or no sedation has become a common approach to invasive mechanical ventilation in patients with respiratory distress. The experience of visiting a conscious patient receiving mechanical ventilation in the ICU has to our knowledge not yet been investigated.

Aim: The aim of the study was to describe the meaning attributed by relatives to their experiences of meeting, seeing and communicating with a patient cared for on a mechanical ventilator while conscious.

Method: This study used a prospective, exploratory design comprising interviews with ten relatives conducted on two occasions; in connection with their visits to a patient cared for on a ventilator while conscious and approximately a week after the end of intensive care. The data were analysed by means of hermeneutic interpretation to obtain a deeper understanding of relatives' experiences.

Results: Striving to achieve contact with the patient was the most important aspect of being a close relative of a patient receiving ventilator treatment while conscious and was described by four main themes: feeling ambivalent towards consciousness; feeling ambivalent towards sedation; feeling dependent on the carer and being disappointed; and suppressing own suffering and sadness.

Conclusion: The patients' consciousness enabled the relatives to judge their condition for themselves and enter into contact. This resulted in a sense of being in control but also efforts to suppress own suffering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Consciousness*
  • Family Relations
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Visitors to Patients*