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



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.

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We would like to acknowledge the work of local coordinators and staff in all participating units, and to thank them for their cooperation. Further we acknowledge financial support by the Krokus Foundation, Basel, Switzerland; AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Company, Grafenauweg 10, 6300 Zug, Switzerland; Section for Quality Management, Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Therapy, and Department of Intensive Care Medicine, all three at Bern University Hospital, Inselspital, 3010 Bern, Switzerland.

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Correspondence to Hans U. Rothen.

Additional information

This article is discussed in the editorial available at: doi:10.1007/s00134-009-1612-3.

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List of participating ICUs (in alphabetical order of the head of department): Dr. U. Denzler, Kantonsspital Schaffhausen; Dr. P. Eichhorn, Spital Schwyz; Dr. S. Elsasser, Medical ICU, Kantonsspital Luzern; Dr. D. Friedli, Klinik St. Anna, Luzern; Dr. R. Grimm, Kantonales Spital Sursee-Wolhusen; PD Ch. Haberthür, Surgical ICU, Kantonsspital Luzern; Dr. A. Haller, Kantonsspital Winterthur; Dr. A. Heise, Regionalspital Thun-Simmental; Dr. R. Knöpfli, Klinik Beau Site, Bern; Dr. R. Lötscher, Kantonsspital Liestal; Dr. R. Lussmann, Surgical ICU, Kantonsspital St. Gallen; Prof. M. Maggiorini, Medical ICU, University Hospital Zürich; Dr. D. Marugg, Spital Samedan; Dr. G. Niedermeyer, Spital Davos; Prof. H. Pargger, Surgical ICU, University Hospital Basel; Dr. D. Ryser, Regionalspital, Burdgorf; Prof. E. Schmid, Cardiac Surgical ICU, University Hospital Zürich; PD. D. Schmidlin, Klinik im Park, Zürich; Dr. M. Stiner, Klinik Hirslanden, Zürich; Prof. R. Stocker, Burn Unit and ICU for Trauma, University Hospital Zürich; Prof. J. Takala, Bern University Hospital, Bern; Dr. L. Weibel, Stadtspital Triemli, Zürich.

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Stricker, K.H., Kimberger, O., Schmidlin, K. et al. Family satisfaction in the intensive care unit: what makes the difference?. Intensive Care Med 35, 2051 (2009).

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  • Patient care
  • Intensive care unit
  • Professional–family relation
  • Quality indicators
  • Communication
  • Consumer satisfaction