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Br J Nurs. 2005 Jul 14-27;14(13):708-14.

Psychological implications of admission to critical care.

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Critical Care Nursing, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.


Admission to critical care can have far-reaching psychological effects because of the distinct environment. Critical care services are being re-shaped to address long-term sequelae, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. The long-term consequences of critical illness not only cost the individual, but also have implications for society, such as diminished areas of health-related quality-of-life in sleep, reduced ability to return to work and enjoy recreational activities (Audit Commission, 1999; Hayes et al, 2000). The debate around the phenomenon of intensive care unit (ICU) syndrome is discussed with reference to current thinking. After critical care, patients may experience amnesia, continued hallucinations or flashbacks, anxiety, depression, and dreams and nightmares. Nursing care for patients while in the critical care environment can have a positive effect on psychological well-being. Facilitating communication, explaining care and rationalizing interventions, ensuring patients are oriented as to time and place, reassuring patients about transfer, providing patients,where possible, with information about critical care before admission and considering anxiolytic use, are all practices that have a beneficial effect on patient care. Follow-up services can help patients come to terms with their experiences of critical illness and provide the opportunity for them to access further intervention if desired. Working towards providing optimal psychological care will have a positive effect on patients' psychological recovery and may also help physical recuperation after critical care.

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