Concern for the family members of patients who are at high risk of dying in intensive care units is both a necessary and integral part of providing holistic nursing care. When patients are at high risk of dying, their families experience burdens such as decision making and treatment choices that can cause the families psychological and physical symptoms, most commonly stress, anxiety, and depression. These symptoms in turn can affect family members’ general well-being. Since the late 1990s, several quantitative and qualitative studies have been done to assess symptoms in such family members. In this review of the literature, the current state of the science on symptoms experienced by family members of patients in the intensive care unit is reviewed and critiqued. Risk factors associated with an increase in symptoms experienced are discussed. Overall, surveys that use self-report measures were the most common study design. Limitations of the studies include convenience sampling, small sample sizes, and a lack of description of patients’ characteristics, all of which make comparison and use of findings difficult. Recommendations to address gaps in the literature are highlighted, and future research goals are discussed.

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