Intensive care unit stays can be stressful for patients’ family members. Family-centered communication has 6 components: fostering relationships, exchanging information, responding to emotions, managing uncertainty, making decisions, and enabling patient self-management. Whether these communication components decrease family members’ stress is unknown.
To describe levels of family-centered communication and associations with acute stress while patients are in the intensive care unit.
A convenience sample of 130 family members of patients in 2 intensive care units in a Jerusalem, Israel, tertiary medical center received a family-centered communication questionnaire, the Perceived Stress Scale, and a personal characteristics questionnaire.
Most respondents were women (n = 79, 60.8%), children of the patient (n = 67, 51.9%), and familiar with the patient’s diagnosis (n = 111, 85.4%). Mean (SD) participant age was 45.7 (13.6) years. Most considered the patient medically stable (n = 75, 57.7%). Mean (SD) intensive care unit stay was 7.45 (5.8) days. Mean (SD) total and item scores for family-centered communication were 98.75 (18.21) and 3.80 (0.70), respectively; for the Perceived Stress Scale, 19.63 (5.92) and 1.96 (0.59), respectively. Relationship building (r = −0.31, P = .002), participation in care management (r = −0.32, P = .001), and emotional support (r = −0.29, P = .003), and were significantly related to stress.
Stress levels were mild to moderate and communication scores were moderate to high. Better nurse communication with family members was associated with decreased acute stress, irrespective of personal characteristics or perceptions of the patient’s medical status.