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Family members’ experiences of the intensive care unit waiting room


M. Kutash: e-mail:


Title. Family members’ experiences of the intensive care unit waiting room

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore family members’ perspectives and experiences of waiting rooms in adult intensive care units.

Background.  Waiting to visit family members who are hospitalized in intensive care units can be very stressful. Although flexible and or open visiting is practised in many hospitals, family members may spend a great deal of time in the waiting room.

Method.  A qualitative design using semi-structured interviews was used and the data were collected in 2004. A convenience sample of six visitors was recruited from waiting rooms of three different adult intensive care units. Data collection and analysis were concurrent.

Findings.  Six categories emerged from the data that included structural and subjective aspects of waiting: ‘close proximity’ referred to the importance of a close physical distance to their family member; ‘caring staff’ captured the comfort family members felt when staff showed caring behaviours towards relative; ‘need for a comfortable environment’ represented the impact of the design of the waiting room on family members well-being; ‘emotional support’ referred to the waiting room as a place where comfort was found by sharing with others; ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ captured the range of emotions experienced by family members; ‘information’ referred to the importance of receiving information about their relative.

Conclusion.  Future research should focus on the impact of the interior design of waiting rooms on the comfort and welfare of family members and on identifying needs of family members across different cultures.