The study by the Centre for Health Psychology says ICUs in hospitals lack psycho-social mechanism and health psychologists

It is indisputable that intensive care units (ICU) induce considerable trauma among patients and their families. However, many hospitals in the city lack a proper psycho-social care mechanism that can go a long way in minimising the strain.

As an exception, the psycho-social care mechanisms at top corporate hospitals in the city differ to a large extent, according to a study conducted by the Centre for Health Psychology, University of Hyderabad. The study was done by Meena Hariharan, Usha Chivukula, Suvashisa Rana and C.R. Rao involving 250 patients undergoing treatment in the intensive cardiac-care units of five corporate hospitals in twin cities.

The team found marked difference in the ‘intensive care’ treatment offered by hospitals to patients after their CABG (coronary artery bypass graft) surgery, though they adhered to the guidelines of the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH). Employing health psychologists at hospitals can significantly alter the situation, the study found.

Psychological intervention is crucial while managing patients in the ICU, said Prof. Hariharan. “What may appear very trivial for the staff, like not bothering to draw the curtain around while giving a sponge bath to a woman patient, may result in an extreme feeling of loss of dignity and shame,” she said, citing a case.

Inserting a catheter without explaining the procedure to an 80-year-old woman prior to the surgery resulted in severe trauma, though the patient recovered from her hip surgery, the team explained, referring to another case.

The study revolved around whether such adverse psychological reactions could be minimized, if not mitigated, by laying emphasis on psycho-social care practices in ICUs. The findings revealed that the psycho-social care practices significantly contributed to minimizing ICU trauma.

According to Prof. Hariharan, simple practices like keeping the families and patients informed about the details of procedures, attending to the anxiety reactions of patients and families, protecting the dignity of patients, keeping the communication channel open with patients and families and regulating light and noise will go a long way in minimizing ICU trauma. She said that based on the study and the psycho-social care offered in ICUs, the team is now in a position to assess the quality of the ICU in any given hospital.

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