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September 2016

Lady stood in intensive care unit jpeg
ICU physiotherapist Kimberley Haines in Sunshine Hospital’s intensive care unit.

Global project aims to support former ICU patients

Western Health has achieved an Australian first in providing support for intensive care patients who survive a critical illness.

It has been invited to join a global project aimed at building a network of support groups for former ICU patients.

The THRIVE Peer Support Collaborative project is led by the Society of Critical Care Medicine, an organisation which represents health professionals working in hospital ICUs worldwide.

The society is concerned patients can suffer symptoms of post intensive care syndrome – depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and physical and cognitive problems – once they have been discharged from critical care.

But the syndrome is not widely recognised in health services.

Tailored support services for these patients are rare.

The society has invited Western Health to design a peer support group model that hospitals can use to help patients and their families once they leave hospital and return home.

‘Peer support groups have existed for decades among some patient groups, such as cancer patients, but they haven’t been explored in the area of critical care,’ said Dr Kimberley Haines, a senior ICU physiotherapist at Western Health, who is leading the project in Australia.

She said a patient’s close family members were also at risk of suffering from post intensive care syndrome as they took on the strain and responsibility of caring for their loved one.

‘The care journey can be a very difficult time, when people are very vulnerable and left to navigate by themselves without any support,’ Dr Haines said.

‘We think peer support groups may be able to enhance the resilience of survivors and their families and reduce their psychological distress.

‘Connecting survivors for emotional support could be really important in reducing their sense of isolation.’

Dr Haines said hospital staff, patients and families will co-design the peer support group for critical care survivors.