Effect of support programme to reduce stress in spouses whose partners 'fall off' clinical partways post cardiac surgery
Cardiac surgery is flourishing in today's health care industry and looks to prosper well into the future. More than ever, improved technology, surgical skill and the worldwide trend of increasing longevity means that surgical intervention is offered to patients rarely seen in cardiac units in previous years. Patients are now much older, with multiple co-morbidity including repeat cardiac surgery. In line with advances in cardiac surgery, critical pathways to map the expected recovery route for the patient have been introduced. These maps are used extensively as guides for treatment and care. It is not only health professionals who use the pathways; patients and their relatives also refer to them as indicators of a ‘normal’ post-operative route. As a result, the critical pathway provides an avenue for expectations of predicted progress through to discharge. These predictors appear to give spouses hope, access to earliest possible visitation and confidence in a positive outcome. Nevertheless, it has recently become increasingly clear that for partners of patients who fail to proceed as expected, who apparently ‘fall off’ the predicted road to recovery, the critical pathway is problematic. Partners of such patients tend to demonstrate greatly heightened anxiety and nurses often have to deal with them at the point of crisis. In the cardio-thoracic unit at which this study was undertaken, the significant number of spouses who ended up in crisis drew attention to the need for additional support to be built into the post openheart surgery critical recovery pathway. This study sought therefore to examine how nurses might assist spouses to adapt in the event of a complicated recovery following bypass surgery. A convenience sample of 39 spouses of cardiac surgical patients admitted to the cardio-thoracic recovery unit was obtained to assess stress responses at a critical post-operative data point, 5 days post-surgery. A symptoms of stress inventory was used to measure 94 items of physiological stress in 10 specific subscale categories. As a result of this study, it was found that incorporating a spousal support programme into the critical pathway of open-heart surgical patients significantly reduced stress suffered by spouses of patients who deviated from pre-determined recovery goals. The findings suggest that nurses need to understand the implications of the critical pathway and provide families with information concerning issues associated with complicated recovery. An unexpected finding of the study pointed to an apparent difference in the stress experienced by male spouses to that of female spouses. Recommendations from this study are to further explore the qualitative component of the stress felt by spouses and the negative association of stress with morbidity and mortality for women and patients without spouses. Nurses need to consider developing and implementing a stress management programme for spouses, establishing spousal support groups and exploring the possibility of incorporating spousal support strategies into the critical pathways of patients across hospital settings.
Australian Critical Care
PRE2009-Clinical Nursing: Primary (Preventative)