Begin Again and Continue With Life: A Qualitative Study on the Experiences of Cardiac Rehabilitation Patients

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Background:Cardiovascular diseases are a main cause of mortality worldwide. However, new diagnostic techniques and treatments have increased the rate of survival for patients with cardiovascular disease. Cardiac rehabilitation programs aim to maintain and enhance the quality of life of patients and improve the secondary prevention of coronary artery disease. Suboptimal participation in rehabilitation programs, early exit from these programs, and not achieving lasting changes are cardiac rehabilitation challenges that are associated with health issues, including the increased need for medication, repeated hospitalization, failure in the secondary prevention programs, and long waiting lists. Exploring the meaning of behavioral changes in the context of cardiac rehabilitation may facilitate the design of effective interventions that are critical to achieving the goals of cardiac rehabilitation programs.Purpose:This study explored the mechanisms that underlie behavioral changes within cardiac rehabilitation centers.Methods:We used a descriptive qualitative approach, which is widely acknowledged as the best approach for eliciting in-depth descriptions of behavioral changes in the context of cardiac rehabilitation centers. Using purposive sampling, 15 men and 8 women with coronary heart disease were referred to the two cardiac rehabilitation centers participating in this study. The inclusion criteria were participation in four cardiac rehabilitation sessions and ability and willingness to participate. The data were collected using semistructured in-depth interviews, and the inductive thematic analysis method was used for analysis.Results:Trying to stay alive” and “begin again” arose as the two main themes related to behavioral change. These themes include the changes in cognition and values that lead to improvements in the process of behavioral change as a major outcome of cardiac rehabilitation.Conclusions:Using psychosocial interventions such as creating and strengthening hope and meaningful intrinsic motivation in the context of rehabilitation centers often helps deal with these challenges. “Trying to stay alive” may take place before referral to a cardiac rehabilitation center. Therefore, psychosocial nursing interventions such as motivational interviewing are designed to improve a process that may be already underway. Thus, stress and anxiety may be treated based on beliefs and emotions. The primary emphasis in cardiac rehabilitation should include changing the beliefs of the patient and motivating her or him to achieve sustainable behavioral change.

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