Public Defence: Hanne Birgit Alfheim

Master of Nursing Hanne Birgit Alfheim at Institute of Clinical Medicine will be defending the thesis “Symptoms, post-traumatic stress and quality of life in family caregivers of intensive care unit patients - a longitudinal study” for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

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Foto: Øystein Horgmo, UiO

Trial Lecture – time and place

See Trial Lecture.

Adjudication committee

  • First opponent: Associate Professor Mona Ringdal, University of Gothenburg
  • Second opponent: Professor Hans Flaatten, University of Bergen
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Professor II Jo Kramer-Johansen, University of Oslo

Chair of the Defence

Professor II Tor Inge Tønnessen, University of Oslo

Principal Supervisor

Professor Tone Rustøen, University of Oslo


Family caregivers of intensive care unit (ICU) patients can experience physical and psychological challenges (e.g., posttraumatic stress symptoms) and diminished quality of life (QOL) related to their role as caregivers.

The overall aim of the thesis was to investigate multiple symptoms, posttraumatic stress and QOL in family caregivers during the first year after the patient’s admission to the ICU.

In total, 211 family caregivers were included and given self-report questionnaires at the patient’s ICU admissions and then 1, 3, 6 and 12 months after admission. At the patients’ ICU admissions, their family caregivers reported a median of nine symptoms with “worrying” reported by 91%.  More than half of the family caregivers reported high levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms, which decreased throughout the first 6 months. During the first year the family caregivers mental QOL was lower compared with the general population.

Younger family caregivers seemed to experience more symptoms and stress than older family caregivers. In addition, family caregivers on sick leave had higher levels of post-traumatic stress and higher mental QOL during the year after the patient’s ICU admission. Finally, family caregivers that reported higher levels of hope had lower levels of post-traumatic stress during the following year.

Health care professionals need to be aware of the family caregiver’s symptom burden and trajectories of their post-traumatic stress symptoms and QOL at patient admission to the ICU and after discharge. Knowledge about potential risk factors is important to health care professionals’ abilities to identify vulnerable family caregivers who may need support to handle their role as a caregiver. The health care system needs to focus on how to reduce the family caregiver’s level of stress and increase their QOL.

Additional information

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Published Oct. 23, 2019 3:51 PM - Last modified Oct. 24, 2019 2:32 PM