Today’s critical care environment is increasingly complex due to technological advancements, greater intensity of interventions, and a myriad of healthcare providers. Critically ill patients and their families can feel overwhelmed with the stress of the environment in addition to the acute illness. This stress affects the patients’ and families’ ability to function, cope, and understand complex information. For some families, this experience precipitates distrustful relationships with care providers. The resulting impact on quality of care, staff morale, length of stay, and cost is high. The purpose of this article is to describe issues encountered by one medical center in caring for complex patients and families. A representative case outlines the types of issues the staff in the adult intensive care units faced. Use of a comprehensive problem-solving model to address concerns resulted in structured approaches to guide healthcare providers in caring for complex patients and families. The goal of these approaches was to support all parties involved in the care of complex patients, improve communication, and avoid crises that resulted from distrustful relationships and lack of skill in resolving conflict.

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