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Keywords:

  • burns;
  • care;
  • family;
  • rehabilitation;
  • social support

Aims and objectives

To explore and describe the meaning of relationships after major burn injury.

Background

A major burn injury may represent a threat to preburn appearance and level of functioning. Social resources and interaction are considered important for minimising the negative impacts on life after burn through all phases of care and rehabilitation. Yet, the subjective experiences of relating to others after burns have not been extensively explored.

Design

The study was performed by using a phenomenological approach.

Methods

A purposive sample (n = 14) of patients who had experienced major burns were interviewed in average 14 (5–35) months postinjury. The interviews were analysed by the phenomenological method of Giorgi.

Results

The essence of the experience of relationships was constituted by other people re-anchoring the burn-injured persons to preburn life, being confirming of the new self, as well as being sensitive, competent and safeguarding with respect to actual and potential problems and harms. New bodily limitations demanded assistive others. Moreover, a worry about the overall burden on close family was typical. The supportive actions from others were mostly described as positive, but could also be experienced as challenging, and sometimes even unwanted and interfering with the struggle for regained freedom.

Conclusions

Across variation, an increased awareness of the meaning of mutual interdependence was typical. Supportive relationships with family, friends and health professionals were important for the return to society, preburn activities and a meaningful life.

Relevance to clinical practice

A perspective that values the significance of social support from family, friends, health professionals and others who are important for the burn-injured person, and that does not underestimate challenges that may be involved, is recommended during all phases of burn care. Health professionals should also acknowledge the importance of relationships when developing structured educational programmes and organising peer support.