UNMC study to assess engagement of family members in ICU

Jul 3, 2018

Patients and caregivers both have better, safer experiences when the caregiver is an active participant in the patient’s care.

Up till now, there have been few evidence-based strategies to engage family caregivers in specific ways.  A two-year, $50,000 pilot study funded by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, hopes to change that.

Dr. Breanna Hetland, principal investigator of the grant, explains caregivers actually have significant health issues after an ICU experience with a patient. 

She and her team believe involving them in care actively will help mitigate some of those negative aftereffects of the ICU.  

Hetland’s study will test the feasibility and acceptability of a new web application to improve the experience of mechanically ventilated patients and their family caregivers in the adult ICU.  

Here she talks about the goal of the study.

“We really have a lot of questions – things like who do we involve in care, what do we involve them in and how do we involve them with our hope that this project will help answer some of those questions.”

Researchers will enroll 60 family caregivers -- one group will receive routine ICU care and support. The other group will receive a tablet with the web app and be asked to assess, record, and treat symptoms every four hours when visiting the patient. 

Hetland says family caregivers are often better than health care providers at accurately assessing patient symptoms.  

The trouble is no one has yet studied whether they can be leveraged to lessen the symptom burden and pharmacologic needs of ventilated patients.

The research team plans to launch the study in the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center Werner ICU and recruit study participants in December.