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Complementary health approaches, Complementary therapies, Critical care, Integrative health



  1. Meghani, Naheed PhD, MS, BSN, RN
  2. Tracy, Mary Fran PhD, APRN, CNS, FCNS, FAAN
  3. O'Conner-Von, Susan PhD, RN-BC
  4. Hadidi, Niloufar Niakosari PhD, RN, APRN, CNS-BC, FAHA
  5. Mathiason, Michelle A. MS
  6. Lindquist, Ruth PhD, RN


Background: Critical care settings are known to be fast-paced and technologically advanced. To optimize humanistic care, integration of evidence-based complementary and alternative therapies holds promise. However, evidence of critical care nurses' use of complementary and alternative therapies in clinical practice has not been evaluated recently.


Objectives: This study sought to determine critical care nurses' perspectives of music therapy, aromatherapy, and guided imagery (GI) including perceptions of legitimacy, self-reported knowledge, interest in gaining knowledge, beliefs of harm/benefits, professional use, personal use, recommendations for use in critical care practice, and requests for these therapies by critical care patients or families.


Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional design with repeated measures was conducted with critical care nurses (N = 53) practicing in 3 intensive care units at a Midwestern academic-affiliated medical center. The nurses' current perceptions, knowledge, beliefs, and use of music therapy, aromatherapy, and GI were assessed. In addition, an evaluation of the consistency of participants' responses using the Critical Care Nurses' Use of Complementary Therapies survey was performed on a subset of the sample (n = 15) at 2 time points 4 to 6 weeks apart.


Results: Most nurses (66%-83%) endorsed the legitimacy of these therapies for use with their patients. Nurses had the most knowledge of aromatherapy, followed by music therapy and GI; they showed interest in gaining further knowledge of the therapies even when reporting "some" to "a lot" of knowledge. Nurses showed a positive response regarding their beliefs about the benefits of each therapy. Professional use was highest for aromatherapy (85%), followed by music therapy (75%), corresponding with greater self-reported knowledge and personal use. A majority recommended aromatherapy (79%) and music therapy in practice (64%) and reported that these therapies were requested by patients or families. Responses on the survey items at 2 time points of administration showed consistency.


Discussion: On the basis of the overall survey responses, developing a robust scientific base and addressing educational needs through expanding resources and continuing education programs may promote use of these therapies to benefit patients in critical care.