What makes a nurse more likely to engage family members in patient care?

Critical care nurses play a central role in engaging family members with patient care in the intensive care unit, but several elements influence how they involve family in the patient care process.

Researchers recently surveyed 433 critical care nurses on factors influencing family engagement and published the results in AACN Advanced Critical Care.

"Effective implementation of active family engagement begins with the endorsement of the bedside nurse," said Breanna Hetland, RN, PhD, the study's lead author. "We must understand how nurses view family engagement and the barriers they face when working to involve family members in patient care."

Here are four key takeaways from the study.

1. Nurses were more likely to ask family members to assist with daily tasks, like applying lotion or feeding the patient, rather than tasks like assisting in the bathroom or tracheostomy care.

2. Younger and older nurses were more supportive of family engagement than nurses aged 25 to 49 years old.

3. Nurses with more experience in critical care or who held a doctorate saw family engagement more favorably. Hospitals could improve family engagement with patient care by providing nurses with an educational opportunity as to how to do so. "[N]ursing experience and opportunities to learn about fundamental elements of family care are vital for establishing relationships with family members and encouraging family caregiver participation," the study authors wrote.

4. Having a lower staffing ratio — as in one nurse working with one or two patients — was associated with being more supportive of family engagement.

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