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American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine ; 203(9), 2021.
Article in English | EMBASE | ID: covidwho-1277046


RATIONALE: Currently, there are over 20,000 COVID-19 positive patients requiring intensive care unit (ICU) care in the United States (US). Even prior to the pandemic, up to 30% of family members of ICU patients experience post-traumatic stress disorder and up to 50% sustain potentially prolonged anxiety and/or depression. Although family bedside engagement improves both short-and long-term outcomes for patients and their families, nationwide social distancing recommendations have curtailed hospital visitation, potentially heightening the risk of stress-related disorders in these family members. The goal of this analysis is to explore the experiences of physically distanced family members of COVID-19 ICU patients in order to inform future best practices. Methods: This qualitative analysis is part of a multisite, observational, mixed-methods study of 12 US hospitals. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 75 participants from five sites;14 interviews were analyzed in this preliminary analysis. Adult family members of COVID-19 positive patients admitted to the ICU from March-June 2020 were interviewed three months post-discharge. After sequential screening by site coordinators, participants were contacted by the qualitative team until all interviews (10-15 per site) were completed. Qualitative interviews explored the illness stories, communication perceptions, and explored stressors. Thematic analysis was applied to the verbatim transcripts of the phone interviews. Four coders utilized an iteratively-developed codebook to analyze transcripts using a round-robin method with two analysts per transcript. Discrepant codes were adjudicated by a third analyst to attend to inter-rater reliability. Results: Five preliminary themes and seven subthemes emerged (Table 1). Positive communication experiences were more common than negative ones. Communication themes were: 1) Participants were reassured by proactive and frequent communication, leaving them feeling informed and included in care;and 2) Mixed feelings were expressed about the value of video-conferencing technology. Themes from the emotional and stress experiences were: 3) Profound sadness and distress resulted from isolation from patients, clinicians, and supportive family;4) Stress was amplified by external factors;and 5) Positive experiences centered upon appreciation for healthcare workers and gratitude for compassionate care. Conclusion: Incorporating the voices of family members during the COVID-19 pandemic establishes a foundation to inform family-centered, best practice guidelines to support the unique needs of family members who are physically distant from their critically ill and dying loved ones.