The number of patients surviving critical care is increasing. Quality of life after critical care is known to be poor for some patients. The evidence base for effective rehabilitation interventions in the period following a stay in an intensive care unit is limited.
To understand what rehabilitation goals are important to patients after critical care discharge.
This prospective study, which was undertaken during an intensive care unit recovery program, explored the recovery goals of 43 patients. Framework analysis was used to extract prevalent themes and identify the important components of recovery from the patients’ perspective.
Participants described diverse goals for their post–intensive care unit recovery. Most goals were about health-related quality of life, including physical goals and rehabilitation. Although health was central to many of the participants’ individual recovery aims, themes of family and social engagement and adopting appropriate goal trajectories also emerged within patient goals. Individual strategies for reaching these goals varied, and patients had different aspirations about what they could achieve.
Patients’ aspirations for their intensive care unit recovery are diverse. Design of postdischarge care can be informed by this greater understanding of the heterogeneous starting points and goal trajectories of survivors of critical illness.