This paper explores Muslim women's experiences of suffering in Jordanian intensive care units. A narrative approach was employed to access women's stories of their critical illness. Sixteen women who had spent at least 48 hours in intensive care were recruited from two hospitals in a Jordanian city and took part in between one and three interviews over a six-month period. Women's accounts of suffering were pervaded with physical, social, spiritual and technological themes. Pain was a central strand in the women's accounts and was experienced often as severe, overwhelming and disturbing to their sleep. The sudden onset of illness, the unfamiliar ICU environment and feeling of uncertainty made it difficult for the women to interpret their experiences. Religious beliefs and cultural norms helped the women make sense of their suffering. Social support, especially from the family, was reported by the women to be essential: a lack of social support was seen as a symbol of death. This study emphasises the importance of looking at a patient who is critically ill as a whole person within the context of their cultural, spiritual and biographical milieu.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.