Aim. To understand patients’ intensive care experience while receiving mechanical ventilation in intensive care units.
Background. The mechanically ventilated patient’s experience in the intensive care unit is unique. Notably lacking are international studies on patients’ experience, particularly those living in Asia. A better understanding of patients’ experience is needed for nurses to develop approaches to take care of these patients.
Design. A phenomenological approach formed by the ideas of Heidegger was used.
Methods. Eleven participants surviving from mechanical ventilation were interviewed in-depth. Patients were asked to describe their experience by responding to the question ‘what is it like to experience mechanical ventilation treatment at an ICU?’. Giorgi’s phenomenological analysis procedure was used to analyse the data.
Results. Five mutually exclusive themes emerged, which were: ‘being in an unconventional environment’, ‘physical suffering’, ‘psychological suffering’, ‘self-encouragement’ and ‘self-reflection’. ‘Self-encouragement’ and ‘self-reflection’ enhanced patients’ self-confidence, which was beneficial to recovering.
Conclusion. Patient’s experiences while receiving mechanical ventilation in the intensive unit were poignant and frightening.
Relevance to clinical practice. Critical care nurses should place the highest priority on recognising and meeting the needs of ventilated patients in intensive care units. An intensive care unit should be a place for the patient to live as a human being; not just a place to survive.