"Critical Illness, Family & Nurses: Connecting the Dots"
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Critical Illness of an adult constitutes a crisis for family members. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to delineate nursing support for family members from their perspective. Results indicated that they were initiated into a cycle of 'work' to meet their perceived responsibilities in order to 'get through' the experience. Lightening our Load, comprised of three interrelated, overlapping, and recurring phases, emerged as the core category of the process nurses could enact to mitigate the negative impact of the experience on family members. In the first phase, Engaging With Us, the nurse begins developing a connection with the family by Letting Us In, Getting Acquainted, and Respecting Us. During the second phase, Sustaining Us, the nurse is Reassuring Us, Involving Us, and Advocating For Us. The third phase, Disengaging From Us includes the nurse Facilitating Us Moving On and Easing Departures in response to transitions involved in the experience. This theory extends the understanding of nursing support beyond current knowledge of family needs, caring, comfort, social support, and professional support, and helps explain the relationships among these concepts. The deconstruction of nursing support by way of this study has resulted in theoretical knowledge to inform nurse educators, nurse clinicians, and indeed, anyone who is or will be, a family member of a critically ill adult.