Needs of family members of critically ill patients: a comparison of nurse and family perceptions

Karen Elizabeth Maxwell, Diane Stuenkel, Coleen Saylor
Heart & Lung: the Journal of Critical Care 2007, 36 (5): 367-76

BACKGROUND: Critical illness often occurs without warning. leaving families feeling vulnerable and helpless with no clear knowledge of what to expect from health care professionals or patient outcome. The challenge for critical care nurses (Registered Nurses [RNs]) is to provide care for aggressively managed, critically ill patients while attending to the needs of stressed family members.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to explore differences in the perceptions of the needs of family members of critically ill patients and RNs' perceptions and the extent to which these needs were met.

METHODS: A descriptive, exploratory design was used. Thirty critical care RNs and 20 family members at a small community hospital critical care unit comprised the sample. Participants were surveyed using the Norris and Grove 30-item version of Molter and Leske's Critical Care Family Needs Inventory and a 30-item version of Warren's Needs Met Inventory. Survey data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics.

RESULTS: Statistically significant differences (P </= .05) were demonstrated for nine items on the Critical Care Family Needs Inventory and for 22 items on the Needs Met Inventory. Family members rated all items as being of greater importance than did the RNs.

CONCLUSIONS: Family needs were categorized according to Leske's dimensions of assurance, proximity, information, comfort, and support. By implementing specific cost-effective strategies to increase family access to the patient, to improve communication with the physician and the health care team, and to create a family-friendly environment, critical care RNs can meet family member needs and improve the quality of nursing care.

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