Family effects of out-of-province medical care being researched by nurse

·2 min read
The time while the patient is being transported to the mainland can be the most stressful for the family. (CBC - image credit)
The time while the patient is being transported to the mainland can be the most stressful for the family. (CBC - image credit)

Having a critically-ill family member is always going to be a stressful time, and for P.E.I. families that stress can be elevated if the treatment required is not available on the Island.

As part of her PhD research, nurse Margie Burns interviewed close to a dozen family members of Islanders who had to be taken to the mainland for treatment while critically ill. She talked to spouses, siblings, children, and even one friend.

"We really want to get a good understanding of all different experiences and perspectives from all different roles of family members," said Burns.

"It was really important to me to be able to talk to a number of different individuals to get a sense of what this experience was like from lots of different perspectives."

They didn't want to draw attention away from the critically ill loved one. — Margie Burns

Burns said she learned one of the most stressful parts of the experience came right at the beginning, while the loved one was being transported to the mainland.

"There's a time there where there's no communication with family," she said.

"A lot of family members talked about how that was the hardest part of the whole experience, not knowing if their relative was still living, how they were doing."

Refusing support

After the sick family member was settled into hospital in Moncton or Halifax, she found that family members often sacrificed their own well-being in order to support their loved one.

That could start with them speeding in order to get to the hospital quickly from the Island. They might not have the money to support themselves in the city and skip meals in order to cover essential costs. They might also skip meals or sleep time in order to spend more time in the hospital.

While health-care workers sometimes would ask if they needed help, they tended to refuse it.

Margie Burns is planning to continue research in this area when she finishes her PhD.
Margie Burns is planning to continue research in this area when she finishes her PhD.(UPEI)

"They didn't want to ask for support. They didn't want to draw attention away from the critically ill loved one," said Burns.

"They sacrificed themselves a lot during this experience."

Burns hopes her research will lead to changes in the health-care system that will provide better support for people who are trying to help family members who are patients out of province.

Burns's PhD defence is next month, but her research isn't done yet. All of the people she interviewed so far were connected to family members who returned to P.E.I. alive and well. She is still looking for people who had loved ones leave the Island and then died in hospitals on the mainland.

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