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Keywords:

  • questionnaire design;
  • reliability;
  • validity;
  • exploratory factor analysis;
  • intensive care experience;
  • nursing

Background.  Previous research has shown that patients’ reported memories of intensive care are often of unpleasant events which are described as frightening and persecutory in nature. Currently, there is no standardized way of assessing perceptions of such an experience or relating it to long-term outcome.

Aims.  This paper describes the development of an intensive care experience questionnaire which aims to (a) identify the domains of such an experience, (b) assess and quantify that experience, and (c) explore its impact on short- and long-term emotional outcome.

Methods.  Data from two studies are reported. Participants were non-elective patients and ≥18 years of age with an ICU stay ≥24 hours. Study 1 (n = 34) generated and developed items. Study 2 (n = 109) allowed evaluation of the factor analytic structure and psychometrics of the questionnaire.

Results.  From a set of 31 items, exploratory factor analysis identified four components of the intensive care experience: ‘awareness of surroundings’ (nine items), ‘frightening experiences’ (six items), ‘recall of experience’ (five items), and ‘satisfaction with care’ (four items). Cronbach's α statistics were acceptable for each component (0·71–0·93). Correlational analysis with the subscales of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and Impact of Event Scale demonstrated concurrent and univariate predictive validity. The intensive care experience was associated with adverse emotional outcome in both the short- and long-term.

Discussion.  The intensive care experience questionnaire identified four dimensions of experience and performed satisfactorily in these developmental analyses. Further study of an independent intensive care unit data set is necessary to confirm these findings, including the four-component structure. Development of a standardized measure provides the opportunity to increase our understanding of the intensive care experience. The questionnaire may be useful to inform the development of effective interventions to improve subsequent outcomes for these patients.