Aim: In order to improve the patients' comfort and well-being during and after a stay in the intensive care unit (ICU), the patients' perspective on the intensive care experience in terms of memories is essential. The aim of this study was to describe unpleasant and pleasant memories of the ICU stay in adult mechanically ventilated patients.
Method: Mechanically ventilated adults admitted for more than 24hours from two Swedish general ICUs were included and interviewed 5 days after ICU discharge using two open-ended questions. The data were analysed exploring the manifest content.
Findings: Of the 250 patients interviewed, 81% remembered the ICU stay, 71% described unpleasant memories and 59% pleasant. Ten categories emerged from the content analyses (five from unpleasant and five from pleasant memories), contrasting with each other: physical distress and relief of physical distress, emotional distress and emotional well-being, perceptual distress and perceptual well-being, environmental distress and environmental comfort, and stress-inducing care and caring service.
Conclusion: Most critical care patients have both unpleasant and pleasant memories of their ICU stay. Pleasant memories such as support and caring service are important to relief the stress and may balance the impact of the distressing memories of the ICU stay.
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