Experiences of healthcare professionals of having their significant other admitted to an acute care facility: a qualitative systematic review

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Most healthcare professionals at some time will experience having a significant other admitted to an acute care hospital. The knowledge and understanding that these individuals possess because of their professional practice can potentially alter this experience. Expectations of staff and other family members (FMs) can potentially increase the burden on these health professionals. All FMs of patients should have their needs and expectations considered; however, this review specifically addresses what may be unique for healthcare professionals.


To synthesize the qualitative evidence on the experiences of healthcare professionals when their significant others are admitted to an acute care hospital.

Inclusion criteria Types of participants

The current review considered studies reporting the experiences of healthcare professionals, specifically registered nurses (RNs) and physicians.

Phenomena of interest

The experiences of RNs and physicians when a significant other is admitted to an acute care facility.

Types of studies

Qualitative studies that have examined the phenomenon of interest including, but not limited to, designs such as phenomenology and grounded theory.

Search strategy

The search strategy aimed to find both published and unpublished studies with no date restrictions. Only studies published in English were considered for inclusion in this review.

Methodological quality

Qualitative papers selected for retrieval were assessed using the standardized critical appraisal instrument from the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument (JBI-QARI).

Data extraction

Data were extracted from the seven included papers using the standardized data extraction tool from JBI-QARI.

Data synthesis

The data were synthesized using the JBI approach to meta-synthesis by meta-aggregation using the JBI-QARI software and methods.


Seven studies of moderate quality were included in the review. Forty findings were extracted and aggregated to create 10 categories, from which five synthesized findings were derived:


In contrast to “lay” FMs, health professionals possess additional knowledge and understanding that alter their perceptions and expectations, and the expectations others have of them. This knowledge and understanding can be an advantage in navigating a complex health system but may also result in an additional burden such as role conflict.

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