Background The literature supports nursing interventions to maximize communication in mechanically ventilated patients, yet limited research exists on patients' perceptions of the helpfulness of health care practitioner interventions to enhance communication. In addition, the level of frustration experienced by these patients has not been reported. Thus, further research is necessary to examine patients' perspectives of the helpfulness of health care practitioner interventions that enhance communication of the mechanically ventilated patient. Objectives This study describes the level of frustration experienced by mechanically ventilated patients and ascertains the helpfulness of methods used by health care practitioners to meet the communication needs of the mechanically ventilated patient. Methods A total of 29 critically ill patients, extubated within the last 72 hours, were included in this descriptive study using qualitative and quantitative methods. Subjects participated in an average 30-minute audiotaped interview session consisting of questions pertinent to their perceived level of frustration in communicating and the interventions practitioners used to meet their communication needs. Transcripts were analyzed by question and for overall themes. Results It was found that 62% of patients (n = 18) reported a high level of frustration in communicating their needs while being mechanically ventilated. There was no significant difference between the duration of intubation and the level of frustration (Spearman r = .109, P = .573) or between the diagnosis and the level of frustration (P = .932). Patients who received anxiolytics (n = 23, 79% of the sample) had a lower level of frustration (mean 3.26) than those who did not receive anxiolytics (n = 6, 21% of the sample, mean 4.33). This difference trended toward significance (P = .084). Patients cited health care practitioner behaviors, characteristics, and attributes that both facilitated communication (kind, informative, and physically present at the bedside) and impeded their ability to communicate (mechanical, inattentive, and "absent" from the bedside). Patients reported problems and stresses associated with communication difficulties that can be alleviated by the health care practitioner. Conclusions Mechanically ventilated patients experience a high level of frustration when communicating their needs, and health care providers have a significant impact on the mechanically ventilated patient's experience. Further research is needed to explore and measure methods of facilitating communication that increase patient satisfaction, reduce patient anxiety, and obtain optimal pain management.
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