BACKGROUND: Few studies have documented stressors experienced by patients recovering from cardiac surgery in the intensive care unit. Furthermore, research has indicated that nurses' predictions of stressors often are not accurate. Stressors frequently experienced by cardiac surgical patients in the intensive care unit must be clearly identified to enable nurses to predict them, plan interventions to minimize them, and help patients cope. OBJECTIVE: To determine what stressors are perceived by cardiac surgical patients while in the intensive care unit. METHODS: A descriptive survey design, employing the Intensive Care Unit Environmental Stressor Scale, was used. Patients completed the instrument while on a telemetry unit after transfer from the cardiac intensive care unit at a large regional hospital in the northwestern United States. A nonprobability convenience sample of 43 postoperative first-time cardiac surgical patients was used. RESULTS: Presence of oral and nasal tubes was rated as the primary stressor. Loss of control and missing one's spouse were the highest-rated psychological stressors. Overall mean scores for stressor items were low. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that interventions reducing stressors enhance the recovery process for cardiac surgical patients.

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