The meaning of social support for the critically ill patient

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36 Scopus citations


Social support has been shown to be important for the critically ill patient. However, what constitutes adequate support for these patients has not been investigated. Thus, the purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate patients' perceptions of their need for and adequacy of the social support received while they were critically ill. Thirty adult patients who were critical during some point of their stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) stay were interviewed, once stable. Interviews were tape-recorded and began with an open-ended question regarding the ICU experience. This was followed by open-ended focused questions regarding social support, such as 'Who were your greatest sources of social support while you were critically ill?' 'What did they do that was supportive or unsupportive?' Data were analyzed according to Miles and Huberman (1994). The categories that emerged were need for social support based on patient perceptions (not number of visitors), quality of support (based on perceptions of positive and negative behaviors of supporters) and lack of support. This study found that quality of support was more important than the actual number of visitors. Patients with few visitors may have felt supported, while those with numerous visitors felt unsupported. Patients who felt unsupported also were more critical of the staff and the care they received. Nurses need to individually assess patients regarding their need for support, and assist family/friends to meet these needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-212
Number of pages7
JournalIntensive and Critical Care Nursing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Critical Care


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