Having a family member admitted to an intensive care unit is a stressful experience that may lead to psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.


To better understand the phenomenon of stress experienced by families of intensive care unit patients and identify nursing interventions that may help reduce it.


An integrative literature review was performed to identify principal stressors for families of patients receiving care in neonatal, pediatric, and adult intensive care units and recommended nursing interventions.


The principal stressors in the 3 types of intensive care units were change in parental role or family dynamics, appearance and behavior of the patient, the care setting, and communication with the health care staff. Nursing interventions should focus on valuing the role of family members in patient care, improving communication, and providing accurate information.

Clinical Relevance

Family members of intensive care patients will benefit from nursing interventions that adequately acknowledge and address the stress they experience.


Nurses play a crucial role in helping to reduce the stress experienced by family members of intensive care unit patients.

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