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Keywords:

  • Chinese adults;
  • coping strategies;
  • critically ill partners;
  • cultural beliefs;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • stressors

Aims.  The aim of this study was to identify the major stressors affecting Chinese adults whose partner had been admitted to an intensive care unit and to understand the major coping strategies employed to manage such stressors.

Background.  Recently a greater number of patients of higher acuity have been admitted to intensive care units and survive lengthy illnesses of an unpredictable course. Such critical illnesses have been identified as a major life event to family members of these patients. Little is known, however, about the stressors and coping mechanisms of Chinese adults whose critically ill partner is admitted to an intensive care unit.

Methods.  An exploratory qualitative design was selected to achieve the aims of the study. A purposive sample of 10 Chinese adults with a partner in an intensive care unit of a regional general hospital in Hong Kong participated in tape-recorded semi-structured interviews. Content analysis was employed to analyse the translated interviews.

Findings.  Categories of stressors included uncertainty, difficulties in communication, changes in roles and responsibilities, difficulties in decision making, financial strain as well as changes in relationships. Analysis identified a range of coping strategies which included seeking information, seeking support, reliance on cultural beliefs and practices, turning to religious beliefs, maintaining hope and acceptance of illness.

Conclusions.  The findings demonstrate the importance of cultural beliefs and practices in determining the coping mechanisms employed to manage the stressors identified by this sample of Chinese adults. Such findings indicate the use of both internal and external coping strategies in order to maintain equilibrium in the family.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Implications for nursing practice highlight the significance of seeking information throughout the critical period and also culturally appropriate support from healthcare professionals.