Mrs Garcia is visiting her husband in the intensive care unit (ICU). He is in a coma after a motor vehicle crash that resulted in head injury. She sits in the room hour after hour, rocking in the hard small chair, saying little, and wringing her hands in worry. Each time the alarms go off on the monitor, she startles in a vain attempt to locate the source of the sound and its meaning. She pushes the call light when the nurse does not attend to the alarms immediately, irritating the nurse with the frequent calls. Mrs Garcia’s fear is palpable. When asked by the nurse, “Is there anything I can do for you?” she says simply no in an unconvincing voice, with a wanting, lost look, unable to find the words to express her needs.

In this article, I describe facilitated sensemaking,...

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