Background: Few qualitative studies have been conducted on older women’s experiences of myocardial infarction (MI) and, in particular, the time before they seek medical care.
Objective: The aim of this study was to explore older women’s prehospital experiences of their first MI.
Methods: Qualitative content analysis was performed on data from individual interviews with 20 women, aged 65 to 80 years (mean, 73.0 years). The participants were interviewed 3 days after admission to a hospital for a confirmed first MI.
Results: The women perceived their symptoms as a strange and unfamiliar development from indistinct physical sensations to persistent and overwhelming chest pain. Throughout the prehospital phase, they used different strategies such as downplaying and neglecting the symptoms. The symptoms were seen as intrusions in their daily lives, against which the participants defended themselves to remain in control and to maintain social responsibilities. As their symptoms evolved into constant chest pain, the women began to realize the seriousness of their symptoms. When the pain became unbearable, the women took the decision to seek medical care.
Conclusion: Understanding the complex experiences of older women in the prehospital phase is essential to reducing their patient decision times. The findings of this study should be incorporated into the education of professionals involved in the care of cardiac patients, including those who answer informational and emergency telephone lines.