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Stress Reduction in Postcardiac Surgery Family Members: Implementation of a Postcardiac Surgery Tool Kit

Breisinger, Lauren, DNP, AG-PCNCP; Macci Bires, Angela, EdD, MPM, RT(N), CNMT, FSNMMI-TS; Cline, Thomas, W., PhD, MBA

doi: 10.1097/CNQ.0000000000000198
Original Articles

The intensive care unit (ICU) can be a place of stress, anxiety, and emotional instability for both patients and families. Medical and nursing care during this acute time is patient focused, and family members are often left in the dark. Unintentional exclusion from information results in high levels of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty for families. Due to the acuity of illness, family members of cardiac surgery patients experience the highest levels of stress. Spouses may experience intense psychosomatic symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and fear for several months after the surgery. The purpose of this study was aimed at decreasing those feelings of anxiety in family members with postcardiac surgery through the use of a cardiac surgery tool kit. The study was a quality improvement project utilizing a convenience sample of 83 participants 18 years and older. Participants were asked to use the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) Form Y-1 (state anxiety) to rate their anxiety level preintervention and then again postintervention. Data were collected over a 6-month period. Descriptive data including age, education level, ethnicity, relationship, experience in the ICU, and active diagnoses of mental disorders did not affect the changes in the pre- and posttest data. A paired t test was conducted on the sample to assess changes in state anxiety, using the STAI Form Y-1. The results were statistically significant (t = 11.97, df = 81, P < .001). Respondents' scores decreased significantly from pre intervention (mean = 53.01, standard deviation = 12.19) to postintervention (mean = 37.38, standard deviation = 10.94). The data suggest that the use of a postcardiac surgery tool kit is a low-risk measure that can decrease the anxiety in family members of postcardiac surgery patients.

UPMC Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Dr Breisinger); Robert Morris University, Moon, Pennsylvania (Dr Macci Bires); and Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania (Dr Cline).

Correspondence: Angela Macci Bires, EdD, MPM, RT(N), CNMT, FSNMMI-TS, Robert Morris University, 6001 University Blvd, Moon Township, PA 15108 (

The authors thank Robert Morris University, UPMC, Dr Terri Deveruax.

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

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