Strict isolation requires a different approach to the family of hospitalised patients with COVID-19: a rapid qualitative study

FAM-Corona Group

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Background: The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic influenced family-centred care dramatically due to restricting visiting policies. In this new situation, nurses were challenged to develop new approaches to involve family members in patient care. A better understanding of these changes and the experiences of nurses is essential to make an adaptation of procedures, and to secure a family-centred approach in care as much as possible. Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate how family involvement had taken place, and to explore the experiences of nurses with family involvement during the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, we aimed to formulate recommendations for the involvement of family. Methods: We conducted a qualitative study using patient record review and focus-group interviews between April and July 2020. We reviewed records of patients with confirmed COVID-19, who were admitted to the COVID-19 wards at two affiliated university hospitals in the Netherlands. All records were searched for notations referring to family involvement. In two focus-groups, nurses who worked at the COVID-19 wards were invited to share their experiences. The Rigorous and Accelerated Data Reduction (RADaR) method was used to collect, reduce and analyse the data. Results: In total, 189 patient records were reviewed and nine nurses participated in the focus-group meetings. Patient records revealed infrequent and often unstructured communication with focus on physical condition. Nurses confirmed that communication with family was far less than before and that the physical condition of the patient was predominant. The involvement of family in care was limited to practicalities, although more involvement was described in end-of-life situations. Nurses experienced moral distress due to the visiting restrictions, though some acknowledged that they had experienced the direct patient care so intense and burdensome, that family contact simply felt too much. Conclusion: The communication with and involvement of family in hospital care changed enormously during the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on the identified themes, we formulated recommendations that may be helpful for family-centered care in hospitals during periods of restricted visiting policy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103858
JournalInternational journal of nursing studies
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


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