The families of critically ill patients are under a great deal of stress for a variety of reasons. To assess the needs of families as perceived by critical care caregivers, we reviewed the applications to an RFP from the CHEST foundation for the “Critical Care Family Assistance Program” grant.
We retrospectively analyzed proposals over a 2 year cycle (2004-2005). Information was extracted regarding the perceived unmet needs of the families of ICU patients in each institution, as elaborated by the institution’s critical care team based on a variety of assessment methods including surveys of families, focus groups, staff surveys, and direct observations by team members. Information from a total of 52 ICUs from the following categories was available: Group I: Tertiary referral center of academic program (n=32); Group II: Urban hospital of community >100,000 (n=16); Group III: Pediatric ICUs (n=4).
The following were the most frequently cited unmet needs of families of ICU patients: more secure and comfortable waiting areas (33/52); better, more frequent, and/or more systematic communication with the ICU team (29/52); better education materials regarding the ICU and illnesses of the family member (27/52); financial assistance with lodging and board for low-income families (21/52); more liberal and/or consistent visiting hours (2/52). Other needs cited included more interpreter services and language-diverse educational resources, a dedicated ICU social worker, and activities for children of patients/families. The perceived needs did not differ significantly between the three groups of ICUs.
There is increasing awareness of the importance of improving family satisfaction with, and understanding of, the care of loved ones who are critically ill. Evidence suggests that a satisfied family affects the outcome of the ICU patient positively. Regardless of the type of ICU, geographic location, or number of beds, certain common needs seem to be of importance to the families of critically ill patients.
Hospital and ICU administrations should be cognizant of these needs in order to better serve the families of their critically ill patients.
Antara Mallampalli, None.