Although proactive interprofessional family meetings are widely recommended as a best practice for patient- and family-centered care in intensive care units (ICUs), adherence to this recommendation is low.


To enhance understanding of practices, barriers, and facilitators related to the conduct of family meetings from the perspective of ICU clinicians and to elicit clinicians’ ideas and opinions about strategies to achieve proactive interprofessional family meetings.


Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with ICU clinicians who were purposively selected from among a national sample. Constant comparative analysis was used to generate a matrix of themes; enrollment ceased when no new ideas emerged.


Interviews were conducted with 14 participants (10 nurses, 3 physicians, and 1 care manager). Rather than having a protocol for proactive family meetings, participants primarily held family meetings when physicians thought that it was time to discuss a transition to comfort-focused care. Other barriers included clinicians’ discomfort with end-of-life conversations, physicians’ time constraints, and nurses’ competing clinical responsibilities. Facilitators included physicians’ skill and comfort with difficult conversations, advocacy for family meetings from care managers/ social workers, and having full-time intensivists. Participants offered/endorsed multiple intervention ideas, including scheduling preemptively, monitoring unit performance, and adding discussion of a family meeting to daily rounds.


A key barrier to proactive family meetings is the mindset that family meetings need occur only when a clinical decision must be made, rather than proactively to support and engage families. Clinicians suggested ways to make proactive family meetings routine.

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