Meeting the needs of critical care patients after discharge home: a qualitative exploratory study of patient perspectives

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Abstract

Background:

With improved survival rates in critical care, increasing focus is being placed on survivorship and how best to support patients in returning to their former activity. Little is known about what support patients themselves view as important, and this has implications for the efficacy and acceptability of services provided.

Objectives:

To describe former critical care patients' perspectives on the support needed to optimize recovery.

Study design:

This is a qualitative exploratory study of the experiences of support received by critical care survivors.

Research methodology:

Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 12 critical care survivors recruited from a charity and a patient and public involvement group. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis to describe patterns in the participants' experiences.

Findings:

Four themes of support were described: effective management of transfer anxiety, tailored information provision, timely access to services and a supportive social network.

Conclusion:

Survivors of critical care should be equipped with information about their critical care stay, ongoing health issues and recovery and should be provided with holistic care at home. Critical care follow up was an effective way of meeting many of these needs, but this needs to be flexible to be useful to attendees. Peer support groups (face-to-face and online) provided information, reassurance, a social network and an avenue for those who had longer-lasting problems than current services provide for.

Relevance to clinical practice:

Whilst there are commonalities in the problems faced by critical care survivors, recovery is highly individualized, and current support services do not have sufficient flexibility to cater for this. This study shows that many survivors experience after-effects of critical care that outlast the support they are given. These longer-term survivors are often excluded from research studies because of fears of recall bias, resulting in poor understanding of their experiences.

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