Family members’ experiences of their role in a hospital: a pilot study


Päivi Åstedt-Kurki, University of Tampere, Department of Nursing Science, PO Box 607, FIN-33101 Tampere, Finland. E-meil:


The purpose of the study is to explore the experiences of family members in their role of relative in a situation where a next of kin has been admitted to hospital. The questionnaire was used in data collection. The data reported here are form a pilot study. The sample consisted of 70 family members of patients receiving treatment on the neurological wards. It was found that family members spent a lot of time at their relative's bedside, most of them up to several hours a day. The daily routines of families and way of life were alos very much affected. The most important way in which the hospital supported families was to keep them informed about the patient's care and treatment. However, this was not possible without an active interest and involvement on the part of family members themselves. There were obvious problems and shortcomings in terms of family orientation: only one thrid of the family members felt that the nursing staff were seriously interested in the family's well-being, and only one quarter had been told what they could do in hospital. About half of the family members needed to meet nurses to get support from nurses and over one third from doctors. The oldest respondents and women needed more help than did others. Men preferred to turn to doctors rather than nurses for help. In general family members had good experiences of visiting their relavtie in hospital. They believed that they were expected and that they were of help to their relative. Over half of the family members said they were actively involved in caring for their relative. Only four per cent of the family members reported bad experiences of their visits to hospital, in spite of the obviours shortcomings in family nursing. For this reason it is important that nurses facilitate the involvement and integration of relatives in the process of nursing.