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What can a psychologist do at an ICU? The epidemiological description of the patients


The participation of a psychologist in ICU team is a recent event that is becoming frequent in some modern hospitals. This experience demands careful evaluation of patients, families and health care team needs, and the efficiency of the psychological intervention. The aim of this work is to describe clinical and epidemiological data about the patients attended by a psychology service at a general ICU in order to optimize the psychologist's work.

Materials and method

This retrospective prevalence study is composed by a sample of 515 patients. The instrument was an electronic case register (MedTrack).


The preliminary outcomes, from 10 months analyzed, showed that the psychological consultation was made to 19.5% of the patients during their ICU stay. The mean age of the patients was 62 years (SD=19 years), and 57% were male. The prevalence of psychotherapy assistance made directly to the patient or family members during the hospital stay was 21%. Seventy-nine per cent were the first evaluation, short-time intervention such as educational and brief interventions focused on the admission period. The prevalences of diagnosis were as follows: neoplasic disease (17%), cardiac system (17%), respiratory system (16%), trauma (13%), neurological system (10%) and others (27%).


The results showed no differences between the means of the population admitted to our ICU and those attended by the psychology team. However, a lower prevalence of cardiologic patients (17% versus 50%) was observed. The high prevalence (79%) of the short interventions suggested that psychological approach had to deal with dysfunctional emotional symptoms during the initial ICU stay and related to the acute forms the clinical disease. These data suggested that the psychologist has to be aware of the characteristics of their patients to optimize their work.

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Andreoli, P., Novaes, M., Karam, C. et al. What can a psychologist do at an ICU? The epidemiological description of the patients. Crit Care 5 (Suppl 3), P79 (2001).

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