• Chronic illness in one family member influences all aspects of family life. Research has documented the positive contributions of social support in an unexpected and stressful event such as a family member's heart disease.
• The aim of the study was to describe in-hospital social support provided by nurses to families of heart patients and to identify factors related to social support.
• Data were collected using a mailed questionnaire to family members of heart patients (n = 161) receiving treatment on two medical wards of a university hospital in southern Finland.
• The results show that the family members were not very satisfied with the social support from nurses, because about 40% were dissatisfied with the concrete aid and affirmation they received and about 30% with emotional support. According to regression analysis the most important predictors of social support were family structure, patient's age, gender of family member and whether the patient had been hospitalized for cardiac symptoms.
• This report shows that supporting families of cardiac patients need development according to the family nursing practice.