Many healthcare professionals can relate to families who come to the hospital as a unified group. In an intensive care unit (ICU), patients’ families are often present and many are concerned with the immediate health issues of their loved ones. We were interested in how patients’ families are perceived by ICU staff and wondered if certain categories could accurately describe particular qualities of families. Such categorization could help ICU staff communicate with patients’ families by understanding common characteristics associated with certain family types. Structured programs for communication between staff and patients’ families have been successful in the past1; however, specific family types have not been studied.

Approval of our study was granted by the ethics committee at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario. Using a qualitative research design, we asked 40 neurotrauma ICU healthcare professionals structured, open-ended questions about the...

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