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Needs of family members during the perioperative period: a phenomenological study Wynne, Susan Mary


In my practice as an operating room (OR) nurse, I have observed that family members experience distress, uncertainty, and anxiety during the perioperative period. However, little has been documented about their specific needs related to these unpleasant feelings, and the single existing quantitative instrument suffers from reliability and validity problems. The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological study was to understand family members' experiences during the perioperative period. Using Colaizzi's (1978) method of data analysis, family members' own perceptions of their needs were identified. Eight family members of eight patients undergoing extensive surgery were interviewed twice: during the perioperative period and two weeks after surgery. Participants expresssed several concerns, all of which centred around what could happen in their own lives if something "bad" happened to the patient. Also evident was their lack of trust in the health care professionals who were or would be caring for their relatives. Lack of trust increased participants' concerns about the wellbeing of the patient and, thus, their concerns about how their own lives could be affected. Participants used a number of coping behaviours to decrease the distress, uncertainty, and anxiety generated by their concerns; most of these related to remaining connected to the patient. Five needs became apparent: (a) to be with the patient or have the option of being with him/her, both preoperatively and postoperatively; (b) to receive regular updates about the progress of the surgery and the patient's condition; (c) to wait somewhere that is both readily accessible and known to physicians and hospital staff; (d) to be able to make informed decisions about when it is "safe" to take breaks away from the waiting area; and (e) to have the company of others. The findings are practical and significant in that they have immediate implications and applications; right now, OR nurses can begin to intervene to help family members. The findings are exciting because they generate more research questions. The answers to these questions will add to the body of nursing knowledge about family members' needs, and will help nurses to reach the ultimate goal of caring effectively for all family members of patients undergoing surgery.

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