The nurse-family relationship in the intensive care unit (ICU) may replace the traditional nurse-patient relationship due to the patient's compromised state. As a result, the nurse-family relationship becomes extremely important. Nurses and families may develop a relationship in which they work together to benefit the patient, or an inadequate relationship may develop. In this study, strategies used by nurses and families to either develop or inhibit the development of the nurse-family relationship were identified. Using unstructured interviews with ICU nurses and family members of ICU patients, categories of strategies were identified and behaviors described. Nurses and families perceived that they each displayed only positive behaviors yet identified inhibiting behaviors of the other. Once the behaviors were shown to nurses as secondary informants, they were able to identify with their negative behaviors. An understanding of these strategies will help nurses to reevaluate their practice and enhance their understanding of the behaviors of family members.
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