Alien abduction or delirium in the ICU?

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | June 28, 2012

For years, health care professionals believed that all measures taken in intensive care units (ICU) were for the patients' own good.

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From left: Brad Matthiessen, respiratory therapist; Dan Haskin, staff nurse; David Gannon, M.D., Keith Olsen, Pharm.D., Michele Balas, Ph.D., and Gregory Peitz, Pharm.D., model the kind of interdisciplinary communication needed to keep ICU delirium at bay.
Patients were tied down so they couldn't pull out their lines or tubes. They were put on machines to help them breathe. Intravenous lines were inserted to deliver life-saving medications. Powerful drugs immobilized them.

"As a nurse," said Michele Balas, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UNMC College of Nursing, "I remember thinking, 'I don't want them to remember anything we're doing to them.'"

The drugs gave patients the desired amnesia about the trauma they faced, but it also gave them something less desirable -- delirium.

Read a story from the latest edition of UNMC Discover that details efforts by Dr. Balas and others at UNMC to tackle the issues caused by delirium.

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