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Emotions in intensive care


I step carefully and keep my hands in my pockets. The nurse smiles reassuringly with her eyes and leads me through the intensive care unit. The atmosphere is calm. Nobody is running. Or even walking fast. The images created by American TV shows about the rush, chaos and beeping in the intensive care unit are shattered. The sun is flooding in through the windows. We enter a large space with two empty beds. There is one more room in between, and through its windows I see my aunt. She is on a ventilator. A person wearing protective gear is doing something next to her. My throat feels tight. My eyes tear up. The nurse stands next to me, gently. Her presence gives me support.

Concern about the burden on intensive care units

The purpose of intensive care is to prevent a temporary danger to life. Intensive care is always individual, and the treating physician, together with other professionals, assesses when intensive care is needed. Intensive care is hard for the patient and, if provided on the wrong grounds, causes unnecessary suffering for the patient. When the coronavirus pandemic started to affect Finland, it was feared that intensive care units would run out of beds. The average time spent in intensive care is usually three days, while coronavirus patients stay in intensive care on average for two weeks.

Chief Physician Mika Valtonen and intensive care nurse Sanna Nerjanto discuss their work and the feelings it arouses with hospital chaplain Harri Heinonen.

Cynicism has no place on the job

A patient entering intensive care is critically ill. This places great ethical demands on those working in intensive care. These are always primarily linked to the patient’s interests, but it is also important to take care of the patient’s loved ones. Medical staff may be confronted with many emotions from patients and their loved ones. The interviewees emphasise the human approach to both themselves and encounters with others. Death is part of the job, and grief is an integral part of that.

Medical staff also feel grief and that is normal – even desirable. The interviewees emphasise the importance of discussing and confronting emotions in order to avoid cynicism in their work. Processing their emotions together with co-workers helps professionals maintain their functional capacity.

How did you feel?

The alternatives concern the fundamental feelings related to this phenomenon and page. We call them secondary feelings. It may, however, be that you did not feel this way. Perhaps you felt something completely different? In that case, select “some other feeling” and, if you so wish, write about your feelings in a letter.

When I read news articles about intensive care, I felt…

Järjestelmässä tapahtui virhe. Yritä hetken kuluttua uudestaan.

Thank you.

You were not alone with your feelings.

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