Background During resuscitative efforts, patients’ family members are often barred from the patients’ rooms and may never have the opportunity to see their loved ones alive again. Recently, the need to ask family members to leave the room is being questioned. Little is known about families’ perceptions of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Objective To describe the experiences, thoughts, and perceptions of family members of critically ill patients during cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the intensive care unit.

Method Six family members whose loved ones underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation and survived consented to an audiotaped interview. During the interview, family members were asked to describe their experiences during the resuscitation. Interviews were transcribed and were analyzed for relevant themes by using Van Manen thematic analysis.

Results One major theme emerged: Should we go or should we stay? Additionally, 2 subthemes emerged: What is going on? and You do your job. A model, the family’s experience with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, was developed to reflect the research findings.

Conclusions During the period of resuscitation, healthcare professionals neglect to recognize that patients’ family members are experiencing crisis along with the patients and that coping mechanisms are impaired. Moreover, the family members’ informational and proximity needs are often ignored during this time of crisis. Addressing these needs through appropriate nursing interventions will become increasingly important as patients’ family members begin to remain with their loved ones during cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

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