'It's not like the wards'. Experiences of nurses new to critical care: a qualitative study

Sarah Farnell, Deborah Dawson
International Journal of Nursing Studies 2006, 43 (3): 319-31

BACKGROUND: Critical care is both emotionally and intellectually challenging, yet little is currently known about the experience of nurses' new to this environment.

AIMS: The aims of the study were to: 1. Explore the experience of nurses' new to critical care. 2. Identify what factors influence the nurses' experiences during this time. 3. Evaluate methods used to facilitate nurses' development such as education and preceptorship.

METHODS AND PARTICIPANTS: This longitudinal qualitative study was undertaken using hermeneutic phenomenology and involved all nurses (n=14) recruited to the unit during two cohort intakes in 2002. Data collection was by means of semi-structured interviews at one, three and six months. All interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, and analysed for emerging themes and concepts.

FINDINGS: Participants described a variety of unique experiences throughout the interviews, many of these related to four key themes: support, knowledge and skills, socialisation and moving on. There were also a number of key factors influencing these experiences including foundation programme, support, preceptors, staff and pre-requisites. Although strategies such as education and preceptorship were positively evaluated, areas for improvement were also identified.

CONCLUSION: This study captures the unique experiences of nurses new to critical care and demonstrates the complexity of socialisation to the critical care milieu.

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