, Volume 35, Issue 12, pp 2051-2059
Date: 03 Sep 2009

Family satisfaction in the intensive care unit: what makes the difference?

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To assess family satisfaction in the ICU and to identify parameters for improvement.


Multicenter study in Swiss ICUs. Families were given a questionnaire covering overall satisfaction, satisfaction with care and satisfaction with information/decision-making. Demographic, medical and institutional data were gathered from patients, visitors and ICUs.


A total of 996 questionnaires from family members were analyzed. Individual questions were assessed, and summary measures (range 0–100) were calculated, with higher scores indicating greater satisfaction. Summary score was 78 ± 14 (mean ± SD) for overall satisfaction, 79 ± 14 for care and 77 ± 15 for information/decision-making. In multivariable multilevel linear regression analyses, higher severity of illness was associated with higher satisfaction, while a higher patient:nurse ratio and written admission/discharge criteria were associated with lower overall satisfaction. Using performance-importance plots, items with high impact on overall satisfaction but low satisfaction were identified. They included: emotional support, providing understandable, complete, consistent information and coordination of care.


Overall, proxies were satisfied with care and with information/decision-making. Still, several factors, such as emotional support, coordination of care and communication, are associated with poor satisfaction, suggesting the need for improvement.

The work was performed at the Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Bern University Hospital (Inselspital) and University of Bern, 3010 Bern, Switzerland.
This article is discussed in the editorial available at: doi:10.1007/s00134-009-1612-3.
These data were presented in part at the 20th annual Congress of the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine, Berlin, 6–10 October 2007, and the study was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (NTC00890513).