BACKGROUND: The period immediately after discharge from the hospital after an acute myocardial infarction is a stressful and vulnerable time about which little is known. OBJECTIVE: To explore health status, perceptions of coping, and social support among survivors of a recent myocardial infarction in the first 3 weeks after discharge from hospitals in southwestern Sydney, Australia. METHODS: A descriptive, exploratory approach with a triangulated methodology was used to assess the experiences of 38 survivors, detect patterns in these experiences, explore the health-support needs of survivors, and determine changes in health status in the first 3 weeks after discharge. Quantitative data were collected with the Medical Outcomes Study SF-36, New York Heart Association classification, Canadian Cardiovascular Society Angina Scale, and the Jalowiec Coping Scale. A semistructured interview schedule provided additional qualitative data about the experiences of the survivors. RESULTS: The health status of participants was relatively stable during the 3-week period; most had no activity limitation due to dyspnea or angina. However, the subjects' health status was considerably lower than that of their age-matched population. The most common and most effective coping strategies adopted during this period were confrontation, optimism, and self-reliance. In addition, the subjects experienced anxiety, depression, ambiguity and uncertainty, fear of recurrence of the infarction and of deterioration in health, of boredom and of inertia. CONCLUSION: These findings can help nurses in hospital and community settings assist survivors of acute myocardial infarction to prepare for and deal effectively with experiences during convalescence.

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