Subjecting patients to stress has potentially detrimental effects on their physical and psychological recovery.


To identify stress-generating experiences that occur in an intensive care unit for patients after cardiac surgery.


A sample of 16 patients in a 14-bed cardiovascular intensive care unit at a university hospital in upstate New York completed a questionnaire (based on an established survey) asking them to rate 23 experiences on a Likert scale of 0 to 4. All patients were adults and had undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgery. After surgery, they were extubated and completed the questionnaire within 12 to 24 hours.


Patients reported pain to be the most stressful experience, followed by presence of an endotracheal tube and sleeplessness.


With pain, endotracheal intubation, and sleeplessness identified as highly distressing to patients, further research can be done to elicit interventions that could alleviate some of the stress involved with a postoperative stay in an intensive care unit.

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