Degree Name

Master of Nursing (Hons.)


Department of Nursing


Knowledge of the experience of intensive care, from the patient's perspective, is essential to the delivery of effective nursing care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In this study former patients from a general medical-surgical ICU, situated in a large Australian metropolitan teaching hospital, v^ere interviewed about their experience of intensive care. Grounded theory formed the basis of the methodological approach to data collection and data analysis. Data were collected using in-depth interviewing and patients' medical records were also reviewed. The data were analysed according to the tenets of grounded theory and theory, based on patients' experiences of being in the ICU was developed. The category of experience forming the core of the theory was suffering. Patients in ICU suffer physical, emotional and spiritual phenomena and this suffering dominates their experience. Patients also experience fear, ranging from mild apprehension to intense fear of dying whilst in the ICU. To withstand the fear and suffering, inherent in the ICU experience, patients use a number of coping strategies which include willpower, acceptance, faith and social support. Patients undergo a process of adaptation over a period of time in which they move from a state of incomprehension and inefifability to a state of comprehension and acceptance. Staff who care for patients in the ICU deliver intensive care which, along with the patients own coping strategies and the adaptive process, helps to reduce the fear and suffering of the ICU. The theory resulting from this study includes categories which describe patients' perceptions of their experience and the legacy of the ICU experience.