• accident and emergency department;
  • family presence;
  • nursing;
  • phenomenology;
  • resuscitation

hung m.s.y. & pang s.m.c. (2010) Family presence preference when patients are receiving resuscitation in an accident and emergency department. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(1), 56–67.


Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to illuminate the experience of family members whose relatives survived the resuscitation in an accident and emergency department, and their preferences with regard to being present.

Background.  Family presence during resuscitation can offer benefits to both patient and family members, and large healthcare organizations support and recommend offering the option for their presence. However, many staff believe that this is too distressing or traumatic for families and that they would interfere with the resuscitation process.

Methods.  An interpretive phenomenological approach was used to collect data in 2007–2008 with 18 family members of patients who survived life-sustaining interventions in an accident and emergency department in Hong Kong. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim for thematic analysis and verified with the participants in second interviews.

Findings.  None of the family members was present in resuscitation room during the life-sustaining interventions, and five entered the room after the patients’ condition was stable. The majority indicated a strong preference to be present if given the option. Three interrelated themes emerged: (i) emotional connectedness, (ii) knowing the patient, and (iii) perceived (in)appropriateness, with 10 subthemes representing affective, rational and contextual determinants of family presence preferences. The interplay of these determinants and how they contributed to strong or weak preference for family presence was analysed.

Conclusion.  Variations among the contributing determinants to each family member’s preference to be present were revealed. Appropriate nursing interventions, policy and guidelines should be developed to meet individualized needs during such critical and life-threatening moments in accident and emergency departments.