Barbara's story : a thematic analysis of a relative's reflection of being in the intensive care unit

Christensen, Martin & Probst, Barbara (2015) Barbara's story : a thematic analysis of a relative's reflection of being in the intensive care unit. Nursing in Critical Care, 20(2), pp. 63-70.

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The aim of this reflective account is to provide a view of the intensive care unit (ICU) relative’s experiences of supporting and being supported in the ICU.


Understanding the relatives’ experiences of ICU is important especially because a recent work has identified the potential for this group to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that is normally equated with the ICU survivor.


A thematic analysis was used in identifying emerging themes that would be significant in an ICU nursing context.


The incident took place in two 8-bedded ICUs (Private and National Health Service) in October.


Two emergent themes were identified from the reflective story – fear of the technological environment and feeling hopeless and helpless.


The use of relative stories as an insight into the live experiences of ICU relatives may give a deeper understanding of their life-world. The loneliness, anguish and pain of the ICU relative extends beyond the walls of the ICU, and this is often negated as the focus of the ICU team is the patient.

Relevance to clinical practice: Developing strategies to support relatives might include the use of relative diaries used concurrently with patient diaries to support this groups recovery or at the very least a gaining a sense of understanding for their ICU experience. Relative follow-up clinics designed specifically to meet their needs where support and advice can be given by the ICU team, in addition to making timely and appropriate referrals to counselling services and perhaps involving spiritual leaders where appropriate.

Impact and interest:

4 citations in Scopus
3 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 79417
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Relative experiences, Relatives in ICU, Stories, Thematic analysis
DOI: 10.1111/nicc.12145
ISSN: 1478-5153
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > NURSING (111000) > Clinical Nursing - Secondary (Acute Care) (111003)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 British Association of Critical Care Nurses
Deposited On: 12 Dec 2014 02:35
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2017 12:01

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