The patient's perception of a delirium: A qualitative research in a Belgian intensive care unit

Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2016 Feb;32:66-74. doi: 10.1016/j.iccn.2015.03.002. Epub 2015 Nov 21.


Objectives: This research aims to describe the intensive care patients' perception of a delirium.

Research methodology: A hermeneutic qualitative research was designed using semi-structured interviews. Adult patients admitted between December 2011 and April 2012 to the intensive care unit of a Belgian public hospital, scoring positive for delirium at least once, were eligible for this study. At least 48hours after the last positive score for delirium, the patients could be interviewed. Data saturation was achieved after 30 patients.

Results: Several patients spontaneously indicated the recollection of the delirium, whereas others needed a few questions or needed the specificity of the syndrome to be pointed out. The analysis of the qualitative data resulted in four major themes: (1) contact and communication, (2) feelings, (3) sleep and time and (4) implication of the delirious episode.

Conclusion: Interviewees recollected a vivid delirium with unrealistic scenes. The study delivered a first understanding of patients' perceptions during a delirium. This qualitative research tried to image the patients' perceptions providing nurses, physicians, other health-care workers as well as patients and their family with a better insight into the syndrome. Targeted interventions may be developed to relieve the burden of the syndrome.

Keywords: Delirium; Hermeneutic; Intensive care; Perception; Qualitative; Recollection.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Belgium
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Delirium* / nursing
  • Delirium* / psychology
  • Female
  • Hermeneutics
  • Hospitals, Public
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Perception*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult