Although many critical care experts and national organizations support open visitation in intensive care units (ICUs), most ICU visiting policies do not allow unrestricted presence of patients’ family members.


To describe how well the needs of family members were met in an adult neuroscience ICU with a continuous visitation policy and an adjoining private suite for patients’ family members.


An exploratory, descriptive study design was used to identify the effects of continuous family visitation in the neuroscience ICU on patients’ family members and their needs and experiences during their time in the unit. A convenience sample of consenting family members completed a survey of family need items 72 hours after the patient was admitted to the unit.


The most important needs identified by the 45 family members surveyed were items relating to information about the patient, visiting the patient, being given hope, talking with a doctor each day, and being assured that the best care is being given to the patient. Least important items were related to physical comforts for the family members. The vast majority of family members rated their needs as being met for all of the items in the survey and reported a high level of satisfaction with care.


In a neuroscience ICU with an open visitation policy and a private suite for patients’ family members, family members rated their needs as being met at a high level, unlike in prior studies in units with limitations on family visitation. The rank order of the importance of each need in the survey was similar to rankings in prior studies in a variety of critical care units.

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