Understanding uncertainty and minimizing families' anxiety at the time of transfer from intensive care


Understanding uncertainty and minimizing families' anxiety at the time of transfer from intensive care


Mitchell ML; Courtney M; Coyer F


Nursing & Health Sciences




Humans; Intensive Care Units; Emotions; Questionnaires; Professional-Family Relations; Communication; Anxiety; Uncertainty; Family/psychology; ICU Decision Making; Patient Transfer; Critical Illness/psychology; Intensive Care/psychology; Stress (Psychology)


When general ward registered nurses (RN) receive patients from an intensive care unit (ICU) they report that much of their time in the initial phases revolves around meeting family needs (Farvis, 2002). Families experience anxiety when leaving the security of the close monitoring seen in ICU (Leith, 1999) and their anxiety reduces their ability to play a key role in the patient's recovery (McShane, 1991; Leske, 1992) as it can impair their decision-making (Cagan, 1988; Halm et al., 1993). By reducing a family's anxiety, they may be more able to cope with the necessary transition to a general ward and support the patient's recovery. A literature search from 1990 onwards was performed within the CINAHL, Medline and Cochrane databases using the key words: intensive care, family, General System Theory, uncertainty, anxiety and transfer. Further articles were retrieved from citation references from the Web of Science or through the reference lists of retrieved literature. Library catalogues were searched using the same key words for books and book chapters. von Bertalanffy's General System Theory provides a framework for understanding the importance of family in a critical illness situation. Critical illness permits little or no time to adapt, thus reducing the family's ability to cope with the situation. Transfer out of ICU is a significant anxiety-producing event for families. Uncertainty in illness is reported in other illness situations to reduce family's adaptation to illness events, but has not been researched with an ICU cohort of families. Seven out of the top 10 needs of ICU families are information needs, highlighting the importance of communication regarding progress and future plans. Nurses require an increased awareness that transfer anxiety exists for families and to be knowledgeable about ways to reduce its occurrence. Research is required to evaluate the efficacy of interventions to reduce anxiety for families and examine the level of uncertainty in illness in this cohort.


Article information provided for research and reference use only. PedPalASCNET does not hold any rights over the resource listed here. All rights are retained by the journal listed under publisher and/or the creator(s).


Journal Article

Citation List Month



Mitchell ML; Courtney M; Coyer F, “Understanding uncertainty and minimizing families' anxiety at the time of transfer from intensive care,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed July 19, 2024, https://pedpalascnetlibrary.omeka.net/items/show/12940.