Nurses must target interventions toward reducing the uncertainty associated with living with a ventricular assist device.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote the timeless short story “The Pit and the Pendulum” nearly 20 years before the Civil War (see Box for synopsis). Certainly, at that time, he could not even have imagined the medical technology now available to patients with heart failure, most notably, ventricular assist devices (VADs). Yet, in many ways, his story captures many of the same feelings experienced by VAD patients today. Frank (a pseudonym), a 58-year-old man we interviewed about his experience of living with a VAD, stated the following:

Although the comparison of the experience of living with a VAD to the experience of the narrator in “The Pit and the Pendulum” who was sentenced to death and confined to prison does not provide an easy image for nurses who care for patients who have VADs, the...

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