Families' experiences of their interactions with staff in an Australian intensive care unit (ICU): A qualitative study

Pauline Wong, Pranee Liamputtong, Susan Koch, Helen Rawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Nursing is characterised as a profession that provides holistic, person-centred care. Due to the condition of the critically ill, a family-centred care model is more applicable in this context. Furthermore, families are at risk of emotional and psychological distress, as a result of the admission of their relative to intensive care. The families' experiences of their interactions in intensive care have the potential to enhance or minimise this risk. This paper presents a subset of findings from a broader study exploring families of critically ill patients' experiences of their interactions with staff, their environment, the patient and other families, when their relative is admitted to an Australian intensive care unit. By developing an understanding of their experience, nurses are able to implement interventions to minimise the families' distress, while providing more holistic, person- and family-centred care. Research design: The study was a qualitative enquiry that adopted the grounded theory approach for data collection and analysis. In-depth interviews with family members occurred between 2009 and 2011, allowing the thoughts on interactions experienced by those families, to be explored. Data were analysed thematically. Twelve family members of 11 patients participated in this study. Setting: This study was undertaken in a mixed intensive care unit of a large metropolitan hospital in Australia. Findings: Interactions experienced by families of the critically ill primarily revolved around seeking information and becoming informed. Further examination of the interviews suggested that staff interacted in supportive ways due to their communication and interpersonal skills. However, families also experienced unsupportive interactions as a result of poor communication. Conclusion: Facilitating communication and interacting in supportive ways should help alleviate the anxiety and distress experienced by families of the critically ill in the intensive care unit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-63
Number of pages13
JournalIntensive and Critical Care Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Critical care
  • Critical care nursing
  • Family care
  • Nursing
  • Professional-family relations
  • Qualitative studies

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