Factors Associated with Posttraumatic Growth in Trauma Patients and ICU Family Members
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Each year in the United States, over three million people are hospitalized for traumatic injuries and five million are admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) as a result of traumatic injury or critical illness. Although the traditional benchmark for successful care in these settings has been patient survival, there has been an increased awareness of psychosocial issues that continue to impact patients' and family members' quality of life beyond the hospital stay. The experience of a traumatic injury or serious illness, for patients or their families, can be challenging to recover from both physically and psychologically. Extensive literature shows that presence of a psychological disorder can lead to or exacerbate negative physical health outcomes in patients, including increased risk of re-hospitalization, greater healthcare costs, and poorer quality of life. From the perspective of family members, psychological strain may hinder carrying out necessary caregiving activities for the patient, and this strain may continue unchecked since the majority of support and resources are directed at patients, not their caregivers. The primary emphasis of psychology, medicine, and related disciplines tends to be on ways in which traumatic events are precursors to distress and, potentially, severe psychological and physical dysfunction. Although this focus is understandable given the prevalence of research and clinical training on the topic, substantially less literature describes the influence of positive psychological outcomes. Posttraumatic growth (PTG) describes positive change resulting from a struggle with highly challenging events, such as sustaining a traumatic injury or witnessing a family member in the ICU. To date, no studies have examined factors associated with PTG in a heterogeneous sample of trauma patients or in the families of trauma/critical care ICU patients. The present studies sought to fill these gaps in the literature. The first study determined factors associated with PTG in a mixed trauma patient population one year post-injury. The second study did the same, but examined PTG in family members of trauma/critical care ICU patients one year post-hospitalization. By identifying variables related to growth, clinical interventions may be targeted to bolster those areas in hopes of improving outcomes in patients and their family members.