Relatives often lack important information about intensive care unit patients. High-quality information is crucial to help relatives overcome the often considerable situational stress and to acquire the ability to participate in the decision-making process, most notably regarding the appropriate level of care. We aimed to develop a list of questions important for relatives of patients in the intensive care unit.Design, Setting, and Participants:
This was a multicenter study. Questions asked by relatives of intensive care unit patients were collected from five different sources (literature, panel of 28 intensive care unit nurses and physicians, 1-wk survey of nurses and 1-wk survey of physicians in 14 intensive care units, and in-depth interviews with 14 families). After a qualitative analysis (framework approach and thematic analysis), questions were rated by 22 relatives and 14 intensive care unit physicians, and the ratings were analyzed using principal component analysis and hierarchical clustering.Results:
The five sources produced 2,135 questions. Removal of duplicates and redundancies left 443 questions, which were distributed among nine predefined domains using a framework approach (“diagnosis,” “treatment,” “prognosis,” “comfort,” “interaction,” “communication,” “family,” “end of life,” and “postintensive care unit management”). Thematic analysis in each domain led to the identification of 46 themes, which were reworded as 46 different questions. Ratings by relatives and physicians showed that 21 of these questions were particularly important for relatives of intensive care unit patients.Conclusion:
This study increases knowledge about the informational needs of relatives of intensive care unit patients. This list of questions may prove valuable for both relatives and intensive care unit physicians as a tool for improving communication in the intensive care unit.