Title. Sedation of ventilated patients in intensive care units: relatives’ experiences
Aim. This paper is a report of a study undertaken to explore the experiences of being relatives of ventilated and sedated patients in intensive care units.
Background. In the last few years, issues about medically-induced sleep as part of intensive care unit treatment have focused on the appropriate level of medication. There are no studies of the impact of relatives on assessment of sedation levels, but studies of family participation in intensive care units show that relatives see their role as more important for the patient than nurses do.
Method. An explorative, descriptive design was adopted. In-depth interviews were conducted with eight relatives of patients in 2003. The research question was: How do relatives experience having a close family member in a state of serious illness, being treated on a ventilator, and receiving medically induced sedation and pain relief? Kvale’s hermeneutical interpretation principles were used for data analysis.
Results. Relatives interviewed seemed to go through various phases that were specifically connected to the actual situation in the intensive care unit. The main characteristic of these phases was a pattern in which participants gradually became active caregivers for the patient. Relatives wanted to be included in discussions about treatment.
Conclusion. Relatives want to be included as caregivers when patients are under sedation in an intensive care unit. Relatives who know the patient can help evaluate the use of sedation and pain management to assist the nurses in giving the best care and the appropriate level of sedation for a patient.