A total of 26 research studies on patients' experiences of being in an intensive care unit were reviewed. The studies were selected because they focused on experiences typical in intensive care units. Many patients recalled their time in the intensive care unit, sometimes in vivid detail. Patients recalled not only experiences that were negative but also ones that were neutral and even positive. Positive experiences included a sense of safety and security promoted especially by nurses. Negative experiences included impaired cognitive functioning and discomforts such as problems with sleeping, pain, and anxiety. The review indicates steps critical care staff can take to develop better ways to understand patients' experiences. Meeting such challenges can improve the quality of patients' experiences and reduce anxiety and may offset potential adverse effects of being a patient in an intensive care unit.

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