Although it is perceived as essential, documentation of caring behaviors executed by nurses is rarely done. To facilitate what is important to patients and their family members, we need to understand what behaviors are perceived as caring or not caring.


To explore perceptions of nurses’ caring behaviors among intubated patients and their family members.


A phenomenological study of 14 patients who were intubated, restrained, sedated, and received pain medication in an acute cardiovascular intensive care unit. The 14 patients and 8 of their family members were interviewed about their perceptions of this experience. A semistructured interview guide was used. Data were analyzed by using an inductive method consistent with qualitative research.


Themes that emerged most often were providing information, providing reassurance, demonstrating proficiency, and being present. Other behaviors identified as caring behaviors were nurses giving guidance and using a soothing tone of voice. Behavior that was contrary to the perception of caring appeared as isolated incidents. These included negative attitude, interrupting sleep, not receiving information, and poor pain management.


When patients and family members are asked directly about their experience, valuable insight is gained into what they perceive as caring and what contributes to recovery as perceived by those in crisis and in high-intensity medical settings. Capturing these data is elemental to designing high-quality, safe environments that facilitate healing.

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