Martina Fiori


The experience of hospital patients who witness resuscitation is an unexplored area within resuscitation science. This study was conducted to explore the phenomenon of witnessed resuscitation from the perspective of hospital patients and healthcare professionals. To inform the study design, a systematic review was conducted. Results identified a few, outdated studies demonstrating that witnessing resuscitation may be physically and psychologically stressful. Stakeholder consultation with former hospitalised patients and experts in resuscitation practice further informed the development of the descriptive, phenomenological study design used. The lived experiences of 16 witnessing patients and of 20 healthcare professionals involved in resuscitation were explored through in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted in one hospital site in the United Kingdom. Six themes were developed across the patient and healthcare professional groups, derived from phenomenological analysis. In essence, patients and healthcare professionals understand that emergencies are part of hospital life. Witnessing resuscitation is a negative experience resulting in perceptions of emotional impact, especially for patients where death, at times, was challenging. Healthcare professionals recognised the perceived impact on witnessing patients whilst attending to their own, and the team’s emotional needs. Patients understood the priorities of care but wanted information and reassurance. This was not always offered by staff due to patient confidentiality and communication challenges. Staff shielded patients from events using curtains, but this was not effective, leaving patients exposed to grieving families and death. After witnessing resuscitation, patients felt safe and had confidence in the staff. This study has generated new evidence on an important aspect of resuscitation in hospital and this can inform interventions to improve the experience of witnessing patients and healthcare professionals’ support practices. The experience of witnessing patients during resuscitation must be acknowledged by healthcare professionals, and sufficient information and emotional support provided.

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