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Keywords

Delirium, ICU survivors, Intensive care unit, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Sleep disturbances

 

Authors

  1. Pinkas, Jamie MSN, AGACNP-BC, CCRN
  2. Horowitz, Abigail MSN, AGACNP-BC, CCRN

Abstract

When patients are in the intensive care unit (ICU), they are in their most vulnerable and fragile state. These critically ill patients are often unable to make their needs known, which can produce an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and fear. The environment can seem threatening and foreign, and patients are often subjected to a multitude of disturbances that can be detrimental to their physical and psychological recovery. Loud noises, diagnostic tests performed at all hours, and poor natural lighting contribute to debilitating delirium and disturbed diurnal rhythms. Loss of privacy and basic human dignity, as well as painful procedures, has been associated with traumatic memories and distress in the post-ICU survivor population. All of these factors have contributed to patients developing ICU-related posttraumatic stress disorder after they leave the hospital. Recently, there has been an increase in awareness regarding this phenomenon within the medical community, which has generated more literature on the topic. Evidence suggests that ICU-related posttraumatic stress disorder can be mitigated. This article proposes the implementation of interventions by critical care health care providers that focus on reducing sleep disturbances, delirium, and benzodiazepine use in ICU patients, thereby improving patient comfort and reducing the severity of posttraumatic stress disorder in ICU survivors.