Family satisfaction with care in the intensive care unit: Results of a multiple center study*

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Abstract

Objective

To determine the level of satisfaction of family members with the care that they and their critically ill relative received.

Design

Prospective cohort study.

Setting

Six university-affiliated intensive care units across Canada.

Methods

We administered a validated questionnaire to family members who made at least one visit to intensive care unit patients who received mechanical ventilation for >48 hrs. We obtained self-rated levels of satisfaction with 25 key aspects of care related to the overall intensive care unit experience, communication, and decision making. For family members of survivors, the questionnaire was administered while the patient was still in the hospital. For family members of nonsurvivors, the questionnaire was mailed out to the family member 3–4 wks after the patient’s death.

Main Results

A total of 891 family members received questionnaires; 624 were returned (70% response rate). The majority of respondents were satisfied with overall care and with overall decision making (mean ± sd item score, 84.3 ± 15.7 and 75.9 ± 26.4, respectively). Families reported the greatest satisfaction with nursing skill and competence (92.4 ± 14.0), the compassion and respect given to the patient (91.8 ± 15.4), and pain management (89.1 ± 16.7). They were least satisfied with the waiting room atmosphere (65.0 ± 30.6) and frequency of physician communication (70.7 ± 29.0). The variables significantly associated with overall satisfaction in a regression analysis were completeness of information received, respect and compassion shown to the patient and family member, and the amount of health care received. Satisfaction varied significantly across sites.

Conclusions

Most family members were highly satisfied with the care provided to them and their critically ill relative in the intensive care unit. Efforts to improve the nature of interactions and communication with families are likely to lead to improvements in satisfaction.

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