To explore nurses' perceptions of cognitive function in cardiac arrest survivors.
Materials and methods
The study had a phenomenographic approach with qualitative semi-structured interviews. Registered nurses (RNs) (n=18) experienced in cardiovascular care and follow-up with cardiac arrest survivors were recruited by purposeful sampling. The RNs where interviewed regarding their perception of cognitive function focusing on memory-, concentration- and planning ability.
In the acute phase the RNs perception was that short-term memory often was affected but with relatively speedy recovery (days or weeks). In follow-up some survivors were perceived to still have short-term memory loss. The memory loss in the acute phase was rather easy to detect however more difficult during long term follow-up. A less prominent memory loss was more difficult to detect than a severe.
The abilities to plan and concentrate were perceived as more difficult to detect. Some survivors seemed to have well-functioning concentration and planning abilities, while others had difficulties in handling multiple tasks simultaneously and brain fatigue was negatively affecting the ability to concentrate.
If next of kin was present at follow-ups, experience and perceptions of the survivor’s cognitive function sometimes differed between the survivor and the next of kin. The RNs perceived that survivors were not always aware of their decreased abilities.
Loss of short-term memory frequently occurred in the acute phase and sometimes during long-term follow up as well. Memory ability was easier to detect than planning and concentration skills. It is therefore important to use valid instruments, easy to use in a clinical context to screen for cognitive functioning in post cardiac arrest care. To broader the perspective of the cognitive aspects, it is important to also involve next of kin in the care.