This descriptive study was conducted to explore family needs and coping behaviors when faced with the stress of a family member’s critical illness. Family systems, crisis, and coping theories provided the conceptual frameworks for this study. A convenience sample of 30 family members of 22 critically ill patients completed the Critical Care Family Needs Inventory and the Jalowiec Coping Scale and responded to a seven-item semi-structured questionnaire. The need to know the patient’s prognosis was identified as most important on the basis of item mean scores. The top ten identified needs centered around the need for assurance, information, and proximity. Hope was the most frequently used method of coping. Seven of the top ten coping methods most frequently used were also identified by family members as being most effective. Coping styles labeled confronting and optimistic were found to be most useful and effective overall. Nursing interventions described by family members as helpful included: the provision of information, emotional support, and competence and manner of the nurse

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