Patients' and Caregivers' Perceptions of Intensive Care Unit Hospitalization and Recovery

Am J Crit Care. 2022 Jul 1;31(4):319-323. doi: 10.4037/ajcc2022945.


Background: Telehealth-based intensive care unit recovery clinics (ICU-RCs) can increase access to post-ICU recovery care for patients and their families. It is crucial to understand patients' and caregivers' experience of illness and recovery to build patient- and family-centered ICU-RCs.

Objective: To explore patients' and caregivers' perceptions of ICU hospitalization and recovery.

Methods: Individual semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with 14 patients and 12 caregivers who participated in a telehealth ICU-RC. This study was guided by qualitative description methodology. Conventional content analysis was used to analyze the data.

Results: Patients described their ICU hospitalization as scary, traumatic, and lonely. Participants' feedback on hospitalization ranged from praise to criticism. Patients wanted more realistic and detailed prognostication about post-ICU recovery and more physical therapy after discharge. Patients strongly valued the mental health component of ICU-RC visits, which contrasted with the scant attention paid to mental health in other postdischarge health care settings. Their knowledge about post-ICU recovery and connectedness to a primary care provider varied.

Conclusions: Examining patients' and caregivers' perceptions of ICU hospitalization and recovery highlights ICU-RC components that can be strengthened to support patient- and family-centered recovery. The ICU-RC staff should invite patients to share feedback about their ICU stay; give a timely, realistic prognosis for recovery; offer mental health consultations; provide physical therapy; and partner with patients and their caregivers to develop and deliver post-ICU care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Caregivers* / psychology
  • Family* / psychology
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Patient Discharge