Meeting emotional needs of family makes a difference in the ICU

(NORTHBROOK, IL, July 8, 2003) When a loved one dies in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), respect, compassion, communication, and good decision-making are key to making the emotional experience easier for patients and family members, says a study published in the July issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP). The study found that family satisfaction with end-of-life care was prevalent in Canadian ICUs and that satisfaction most significantly correlated with the family's involvement in making decisions, the amount of communication between staff and family, and the respect and compassion shown toward the patient and family.

"So much of the pain and suffering around end-of-life care, from both the patients' and families' perspectives, relates to the way in which staff communicate with them," said lead author Daren Heyland, MD, MSc, Director of Research, Critical Care Program Kingston General Hospital, Ontario, Canada. "When it becomes apparent that a patient is going to die from his or her critical illness, physicians need to direct more supportive care and compassion, to a greater degree, toward family members."

Researchers from six university-affiliated hospitals in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia, Canada, documented the experience of patients dying in ICUs from the perspectives of family members. Researchers surveyed family members of nonsurviving patients who had been supported by mechanical ventilation and in the ICU for more than 48 hours. Of the 256 completed surveys, 52 percent of the families rated their satisfaction with overall ICU care as "excellent," 31 percent as "very good," and 10 percent as "good." The majority of respondents believed they were adequately included in the decision-making process (84.2 percent), that they received an appropriate amount of information (88.1 percent), that they had adequate time to have their concerns and questions address

Contact: Jennifer Stawarz
American College of Chest Physicians

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