For many nurses, managing patients’ symptoms in the intensive care unit (ICU) presents a major dilemma. We want to control pain, anxiety, dyspnea, and ensure that our patients experience as little discomfort as possible. However, the medications used to treat these symptoms have side effects and overuse may result in unintended consequences that include increased number of ventilator days, increased risk of aspiration, and worsening delirium.

Veteran researcher, Linda Chlan, phd, points to effective alternatives that include self-directed music listening and patient-controlled sedation. Using music to mitigate the unfamiliar and frightening sounds in the ICU is not a new idea, but having the patient select the music and control the timing of its use is novel. Similarly, allowing patients to control sedation dose timing addresses their anxiety and respects patient autonomy. Through interventions like these, nurses may find...

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