BACKGROUND: Understanding the psychological experience of living with a life-sustaining device is necessary for developing individualized, supportive interventions for patients with a left ventricular assist device. OBJECTIVES: To describe patients' experiences with left ventricular assist devices, strategies for coping with prolonged hospitalization, and suggestions for individualized nursing interventions. METHODS: The phenomenology method of qualitative research was used. Data collection involved unstructured, open-ended interviews of 6 hospitalized subjects who had a pneumatic left ventricular assist device. RESULTS: Patients described coping strategies for prolonged hospitalization, including family support, religious convictions, and diversional activities. Data analysis suggests that critical care nurses can best support these patients by establishing trusting relationships, fostering independence, and incorporating humor into their care. CONCLUSIONS: Patients awaiting cardiac transplantation coped effectively with prolonged hospitalization with a life-sustaining device in place. Spirituality, humor, and strong family relationships contributed to their positive outlook.

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