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Aust J Physiother. 1971 Sep;17(3):73-6. doi: 10.1016/S0004-9514(14)61108-9.

The physiotherapist and the acutely ill patient.

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  • 1New South Wales Department of Health, North Ryde Psychiatric Centre.


Nowadays acutely ill patients are nursed in intensive care units which have become the status symbol of the modern hospital. These units sometimes provide treatment which is more "intensive" than it is "caring" because the need for personal involvement of the staff with the patient may be subjugated to the needs of the monitors, respirators and other gadgetry. An array of knobs, dials and flashing lights is usually displayed prominently to impress the visitor and ensure that the ward acquires the full prestige value which such equipment merits. The staff, who have a considerable ego-investment in this electric paraphernalia, derive much satisfaction from its operation even when it is recording the terminal paroxysms of a dying patient. There is still wide debate in the medical literature as to whether these units can justify, in terms of gainful lives saved, their enormously expensive equipment, staff and expertise. Be all that as it may, there is no doubt that the intensive care unit has come to stay and we must all learn to work in them and, in particular, help the patients who are being processed by them to maintain a healthy outlook. Such patients may be well looked after physically but are often silently suffering psychological torture.

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