Supporting family resilience, the ability of families to rebound from stressful events, is a goal of family nursing. Critical care nurses act as liaisons between patients’ families and other clinicians and thus are uniquely situated to promote family resilience.


To explore how nurses perceive the experiences of long-stay surgical intensive care unit patients and their families in order to gain insights on how nurses could cultivate family resilience.


A qualitative study including semistructured interviews (n = 13) and 4 focus groups (n = 17) with nurses in 3 surgical intensive care units in a large teaching hospital.


Three themes were identified: expectations, support, and communication. Nurses noted that clinicians’ and families’ unrealistic expectations regarding the patient’s recovery can foster false hope. Nurses recognized families as “cheerers” who provide support by being involved in patient care and observed how extensive family involvement can be beneficial to patients but overwhelming for families. Nurses noted that communication among providers, families, and patients is the cornerstone of creating meaningful relationships. Nurses stated that with many teams involved, discrepancies in information can occur and often confuse and disturb patients’ families. Thus, nurses identified ways to enhance family resilience through routine and consistent communication.


Nurses note unique stresses faced by families of patients in surgical intensive care units. Using the family resilience model, nurses can identify and enhance key family resilience factors.

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