Embodied Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to ICU Patient Care

In the groundbreaking thesis “Embodied Recovery” by Roel van Oorsouw, a transformative perspective on ICU patient care is unveiled. Delving deep into the lifeworld dimensions of ICU patients, the research underscores the profound value of physiotherapy in both early mobilization and prolonged ICU rehabilitation. Beyond the conventional focus on physical recovery, the study champions the importance of understanding patients’ lived experiences and emotions. Key insights include:

  • Holistic Healing: The research emphasizes the need to address both the technical aspects of recovery and the deeply personal, subjective experiences of patients. This dual approach ensures a more comprehensive healing process.
  • Empathy in Action: Healthcare professionals are encouraged to deeply connect with patients, understanding their perceptions and feelings. Whether it’s a patient seeing a doctor as an ‘astronaut’ due to their protective gear or grappling with the changes in their own body, empathy becomes a pivotal tool in care.
  • The Power of Physiotherapy: Highlighting the often-underestimated value of physiotherapy, the thesis showcases its role in preventing deconditioning, promoting early mobilization, and addressing prolonged physical impairments.
  • Promoting Embodied Recovery: The research introduces the concept of ’embodiment lens’, urging both patients and caregivers to adopt a relational view of the body. This approach fosters a sense of empowerment and acceptance, aiding in the overall recovery journey.

Dive into the thesis to explore how these insights are set to revolutionize ICU patient care, emphasizing a more holistic, empathetic, and patient-centered approach.

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This theses is expected to have implications for future ICU patient treatment.

  1. “Lived space”
    • The ICU environment negatively impacts the well-being of patients, increasing feelings of alienation and restriction.
    • Merleau-Ponty emphasizes that our relationship with the environment is based on movement and action, not just thought.
    • The concept of ‘I can’ is deeply rooted in the interaction between the body and its environment.
    • The nature of the lived space significantly influences patients’ experiences of their capabilities (‘I can’).
    • Physiotherapists need to consider the relationship between a living body and its environment.
    • It’s important for physiotherapists to modify the environment and place patients in situations where they can rediscover their bodily abilities.
    • The buoyancy of water in a pool provides an ideal setting for functional training, even in cases of severe weakness.
    • Hydrotherapy is an effective method to foster the ‘I can’ experience, often marking a turning point in the recovery of critically ill patients.
    • Hydrotherapy increases self-efficacy and a sense of agency among critically ill patients.
  2. Patients’ Lived Experiences in Recovery from COVID-19-associated ICUAW:
    • The study emphasizes the importance of addressing both “technical/objective” and “meaningful/subjective” aspects in patients’ recovery.
    • While the language in recovery is often directed towards objective and quantifiable outcome measures and therapeutic goals, it’s crucial to connect to and empathize with the lifeworld of patients.
    • Healthcare professionals should be conscious of patients’ experiences. For instance, if a patient perceives a healthcare professional as an “astronaut” due to their protective gear, the professional should introduce themselves and explain their role and actions.
    • Understanding the impaired body-knowledge in patients with ICUAW could be beneficial.
  3. Patients’ Lived Body Experiences:
    • Insights from the study have significant clinical implications for physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals supporting patients in early mobilization and ICU recovery.
    • Healthcare professionals should empathize with patients’ feelings of inability and empower them by creating therapeutic situations where patients experience capability.
    • Recognizing that the patients’ lived body may change for life, professionals should assist patients in coming to terms with their ‘new’ self.
  4. Value of Physiotherapy:
    • The document highlights the value of physiotherapy in preventing and decreasing deconditioning by early mobilization and treating prolonged physical impairments in ICU rehabilitation.
    • The subjective, first-person illness perspective is essential for a richer understanding of the value of physiotherapy and enabling person-centered care.
  5. Embodied Recovery:
    • The findings suggest that both patients and physiotherapists could benefit from an ’embodiment lens’ and a relational view of the body to promote embodied recovery in the ICU and beyond.

In summary, the thesis suggests a shift towards a more holistic and empathetic approach to ICU patient care, emphasizing the importance of understanding and addressing patients’ lived experiences and promoting embodied recovery. This approach not only focuses on the physical aspects of recovery but also on the emotional, psychological, and subjective experiences of patients.