Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Hlda Shepeard


Physical, psychological, and social debilities are common among survivors of critical illness. Survivors of critical illness require rehabilitative services during recovery in order to return to functional independence, but the structure and access of such services remains unclear. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the vital issues affecting quality of life from the perspective of critical illness survivors and to understand these patients' experiences with rehabilitative services in the United States. The theoretical framework guiding this study was Weber's rational choice theory, and a phenomenological study design was employed. The research questions focused on the survivors' experiences with rehabilitative services following critical illness and post-intensive care unit quality of life. Participants were recruited using purposeful sampling. A researcher developed instrument was used to conduct 12 semistructured interviews in central North Carolina. Data from the interviews were coded for thematic analysis. The findings identified that aftercare lacked unity, was limited by disparate information, and overuses informal caregivers. In addition, survivors' recovery depended on being prepared for post-intensive care unit life, access to recovery specific support structures, and the survivors' ability to adapt to a new normalcy. Survivors experienced gratitude for being saved, which empowered them to embrace new life priorities. The implications for social change include improved understanding of urgently needed health care policies to provide essential therapies and services required to support intensive care unit survivors on their journey to recovery.