Aim. The aim was to describe critical care nurses’ experiences of close relatives within intensive care.
Background. There is a lack of research describing critical care nurses' experiences of the significance of close relatives in intensive care. Knowledge in this area will support critical care nurses to develop good nursing care for the critically ill person and their close relatives.
Design and method. The design of the study was qualitative. Data collection was carried out through focus group discussions with 24 critical care nurses in four focus groups during spring 2004. The data were subjected to qualitative thematic content analysis.
Results. The focus groups discussions showed that the presence of close relatives was taken for granted by critical care nurses and it was frustrating if the critically ill person did not have any. Information from close relatives made it possible for critical care nurses to create individual care for the critically ill person. They supported close relatives by giving them information, being near and trying to establish good relations with them. Close relatives were important. Critical care nurses lacked forums for reflection and discussion about the care given.
Relevance to clinical practice. This study indicates that close relatives are a prerequisite for critical care nurses to give good nursing care to meet the needs of the critically ill person. A communication based on mutual understanding is necessary if critical care nurses are to be able to support close relatives. Dealing constantly with situations that were ethically difficult without any chance to reflect was an obstacle for critical care nurses to improve their work with close relatives.