Family-centered care is a proposed way of supporting family involvement with a child’s care and decreasing distress associated with a child’s critical illness by improving communication, helping manage stress and coping, and decreasing conflicts. Nurses are critical to successful implementation of family-centered care.


To describe nurses’ perceptions of the benefits and challenges of providing family-centered care in pediatric intensive care units.


Semistructured interviews of 10 bedside and charge nurses in pediatric, cardiac, and neonatal intensive care units. Questions were related to 4 domains: the intensive care unit environment and its relationship to the structure and delivery of critical care, stressors for nurses and families, communication challenges and strategies, and involvement of families in care and decision-making.


The main thematic finding was the nurses’ descriptions of a “balancing act” to provide quality family-centered care. The balancing act was characterized by the interaction between 2 types of changes: (1) intensive care unit policies related to visitation hours and family presence at the bedside and (2) physical transformations in the intensive care unit from shared open space to individual private rooms.


All of the nurses viewed the transition to family-centered care as having benefits for families. They also described how changes had created new challenges for the delivery of nursing care in intensive care units, particularly regarding mentorship and the safety of patients and staff.

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