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Determinants of family satisfaction in the intensive care unit

Intensive Care Unit, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


The aim of this study was to explore the degree and determinants of satisfaction of family members of patients being cared for in an Australasian intensive care unit. This was a prospective observational study that took place within a mixed medical/surgical, level three intensive care unit. One hundred and eight family members of patients staying in the intensive care for more than 48 hours were identified. Eight were excluded because next of kin contact details were unavailable. A questionnaire was posted to next of kin four weeks after intensive care unit discharge. Subjects who had not responded after four weeks were contacted by telephone and, if consent was given, a phone questionnaire was performed. Evidence of family meetings with the social worker or medical staff was sought in the patients' case notes retrospectively. Family satisfaction was measured using a 10-item questionnaire incorporating visual analogue scales. Seven subjects refused to participate. Fifty-nine responded by post and a further 25 agreed to a phone interview. Nine subjects were unable to be contacted. Eighty-four family members were included, 73 of patients who survived. Overall family satisfaction was a high 8.0 (interquartile range 6.5 to 9.5). Highest scores recorded were for communications with nursing staff (9.0), while lowest scores were for frequency of doctors' communication (7.0). Families who had meetings with the social worker or medical staff were less likely to report dissatisfaction (relative risk 0.14; confidence interval 0.03 to 0.59; P=0.08; relative risk 0.23; confidence interval 0.07 to 0.81; P=0.02). Our study found that the majority of families are happy with their care in the intensive care unit. Social work and medical meetings with the family reduce dissatisfaction.

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