The conceptualization of family care during critical illness in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Introduction: In recent years there has been a movement to promote patients as partners in their care; however this may not always be possible as in the case of critically ill patients, who are often sedated and mechanically ventilated. This results in family members being involved in the care of the patient. To date, this type of care has been represented by three dominant theoretical conceptualizations and frameworks one of which is family centered care; however there is a lack of consensus on the definition of family centered care. Hence the objective of this study was to explore the meaning of family care within a South African context.
Methodology: This study adopted a qualitative approach and a grounded theory research design by Strauss and Corbin (1990). Participants from two hospitals: one private and one public were selected to participate in the study. There was a total of 31 participants (family members, intensive care nurses and doctors) who volunteered to participate in the study. Data collection included in-depth individual interviews. Open, axial and selective coding was conducted to analyse data. Nvivo data analysis software was used to assist with the data analysis.
Findings: The findings of this study revealed that family care is conceptualized as togetherness, partnership, respect and dignity.
Conclusion: During a critical illness, patients' families fulfil an additional essential role for patients who may be unconscious or unable to communicate or make decisions. FMs not only provide vital support to their loved one, but also become the “voice” of the patient.
Keywords: Critical care, Critical illness, Families during illness, Family centered care
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