critical care nurses, end-of-life care, experiences, families, intensive care, obstacles, qualitative


Background: Critical care nurses (CCNs) frequently provide end-of-life (EOL) care for critically ill patients. Critical care nurses may face many obstacles while trying to provide quality EOL care. Some research focusing on obstacles CCNs face while trying to provide quality EOL care has been published; however, research focusing on family behavior obstacles is limited. Research focusing on family behavior as an EOL care obstacle may provide additional insight and improvement in care.

Objectives: We wanted to gather firsthand experiences of CCNs regarding working with families of dying patients. We then wanted to determine the predominant obstacle themes noted when CCNs share these rich experiences in EOL care.

Methods: A random geographically dispersed sample of 2000 members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses was surveyed. Responses from a qualitative question on the questionnaire were analyzed.

Results: Sixty-seven EOL obstacle experiences surrounding issues with families’ behavior were analyzed for this study. Experiences were categorized into 8 themes. Top 3 common obstacle experiences included families in denial, families going against patient wishes and advanced directives, and families directing care that negatively impacted patients.

Conclusions: In overcoming EOL obstacles, it may be beneficial to have proactive family meetings to align treatment goals and to involve palliative care earlier in the ICU stay.

Original Publication Citation

Beckstrand, R. L., Mallory, C.**, Luthy, K. E., & Macintosh, J. L. B. (2018). Critical care nurses’ experiences of family behaviors as obstacles to end-of-life care. Dimensions of Critical Care, 37(5), 251-258.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing





University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor