Experts recommend families have greater access to loved ones in critical care units

Family members of those undergoing care in intensive care units (ICUs) should have more access to loved ones in ICUs, should have more instruction to help participate in their care, and should have access to validated support tools when sharing in important medical decisions with ICU clinicians, according to new recommendations for family-centered ICU care from the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), published in journal Critical Care Medicine.

The release of the recommendations is accompanied by several implementation tools (available online for free) that help ICU leaders focus on areas where family-centered care could be improved in their local units and identify existing resources to facilitate change. These tools were drafted by the national SCCM task forces headed by Yale School of Medicine’s Dr. David Y. Hwang, an assistant professor in the Division of Neurocritical Care and Emergency Neurology.  The recommendations themselves also include calls for regular family conferences with medical staff to help lower risk of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress among loved ones.

Hwang notes, “Our hope is that these new guidelines and accompanying tools will not only encourage ICUs across the country to focus on family experiences and communication but also actually help out ICU leaders in starting the process of enacting local practice changes.”

The recommendations and implementation tools were presented Jan. 25 at the 46th SCCM Critical Care Congress held in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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