The experiences of intensive care patients while being attached to a mechanical ventilator and in a conscious state
: a qualitative exploratory study

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research


There is a deficit within the research, in England, regarding the experiences of patients nursed within a critical care environment over a long period of time and who are conscious when connected to a mechanical ventilator. This new, qualitative study had the aim of exploring the experiences of intensive care patients while being attached to a mechanical ventilator and in a conscious state, in order to identify implications for nursing practice, policy and future research. After ethical scrutiny and approval by the Coventry University research ethics systems, an NHS Local Research Ethics Committee, and a local NHS trust research and development committee, 6 participants were recruited for participation in semi-structured interviews. All participants had spent at least 14 days on a ventilator and all had tracheostomy tubes inserted during this period of time. Thematic analysis produced findings which are reported in six interdependent themes as follows:
• The centrality of family visitors’ presence and social support within patients’ critical care experiences.
• Losing your voice: unresolved communication difficulties.
• Difficult thoughts and feelings associated with physical, personal care by health professionals.
• Asleep or awake? Vivid, violent, confusing and disturbing dreams.
• A noisy and disorientating environment.
• Vulnerability and loss of control over body, mind and identity.

Findings are discussed in order to identify implications for further research, policy and nursing practice. Specifically, the significance of this study for nursing practice in relationship to effective communication with patients, the importance of reflexivity about power in nursing practice and recognition of the key role of the family in providing advocacy and social support for patients, are emphasised.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorMargaret Goodman (Supervisor)


  • critical care
  • healthcare
  • qualitative research
  • nursing research
  • patient experience
  • intensive care

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