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Emotional Impact on Families in the Intensive Care Unit

Lora Mills, MSN, RN, CNS, CCRN

AMN Healthcare Education Service

Magazine Article

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Nurses and/or Other Critical Care Medical Professionals

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Imagine being told you have been diagnosed with a life-altering illness and as a result, will need to deliver your baby prematurely, or that your son or daughter was involved in a car crash and has suffered severe head trauma, or your significant other needs open heart surgery after a positive stress test. There is no doubt you and your family will experience feelings of great anxiety, fear, and sadness. Each of these experiences may lead to an intensive care unit (ICU) admission for your loved one. An ICU stay will further exacerbate these overwhelming emotions and leave you emotionally and mentally changed.
According to Davidson, Jones, and Bienvenu (2012), one-third of parents with a child in the ICU have clinically significant symptoms of acute stress disorder. Additionally, 40% of relatives with loved ones who are critically ill suffer from anxiety. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are found to be at the highest levels in families of patients in the ICU (Jones, Backman, & Griffiths, 2012).

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