HAVING THE RIGHT HOSPITAL ROOMMATE CAN SPEED RECOVERY
FROM HEART BYPASS SURGERY
by the American Psychological Association
Any Roommate Is Not Better Than None,
But a Having a Roommate Who Has Already Had Similar Surgery Is Best
For some people facing coronary bypass surgery, the prospect of having
to share a hospital room might fill them with as much fear and loathing
as the surgery itself. But a new study in the November edition of the
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American
Psychological Association (APA), found that bypass surgery patients
who shared a room with another cardiac patient -- especially one who
had already had the same surgery --were less anxious, more ambulatory
after surgery and were released from the hospital sooner than those
who had had either a roommate with a different medical condition or
no roommate at all.
Researchers from the University of California,
San Diego and San Francisco and California State University, San Marcos
studied 84 men who underwent first-time, nonemergency coronary-bypass
surgery at the San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The patients
ranged in age from 41 to 70 and were treated by the same hospital staff.
Seventy-four of the patients were assigned to share a room with another
male patient who had either undergone the same operation or was going
to have it, or who had or was waiting to have a different operation.
Ten others were assigned to rooms without roommates.
The night before
their surgery, the patients filled out a preoperative questionnaire
designed to assess their level of anxiety and, for those with roommates,
to find out about their interactions. After surgery, the patients were
asked on three consecutive days how much walking they had done. Some
patients were also asked to wear a small device that recorded their
movements during waking hours. The researchers also noted how many days
elapsed before each patient left the surgical intensive care unit and
how many days elapsed before they left the hospital.
In terms of
health outcomes, the "best" scenario appeared to be having
a roommate who had already undergone a similar operation; the lengths
of stay for those in that circumstance were 25 percent shorter than
for those assigned to the "worst" combination -- having a
preoperative, noncardiac roommate. Those who had roomates who were postoperative
and noncardiac, or roommates who were preoperative and cardiac and those
with no roommates fell somewhere in between.
Those without roommates
did not differ reliably from the other patients in terms of preoperative
anxiety, but their levels of postoperative ambulation were comparable
to those assigned a noncardiac roommate and lower than those with a
cardiac roommate. "More interesting," the authors write, "the
average length of stay for the no-roommate group was not significantly
longer than that of patients assigned to roommates who were postoperative
or noncardiac but was significantly longer than that of patients assigned
a roommate who was postoperative or cardiac." In other words, the
authors conclude, while sharing a hospital room with someone with similar
surgical problem or who has already had their surgery appears to be
beneficial (in terms of reducing lengths of stay), sharing a room with
someone with a different surgical problem or who has not yet had the
surgery does not appear to be harmful.
Social Comparison and Affiliation Under Threat: Effects on Recovery
From Major Surgery by James A. Kulik, Ph.D., University of California,
San Diego, Heike I.M. Mahler, Ph.D., California State University, San
Marcos, and University of California, San Diego, and Philip J. Moore,
Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, in the Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, Vol. 71, No. 5.
The American Psychological Association (APA), in
Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing
psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists.
APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians,
consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology
and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations,
APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means
of promoting human welfare.