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J Caring Sci. 2013 Aug 27;2(3):197-201. doi: 10.5681/jcs.2013.024. eCollection 2013 Sep.

Nurses empathy and family needs in the intensive care units.

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Department of Medical Surgical Nursing, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, Tabriz University of Medical sciences, Tabriz, Iran.



The patients' families in intensive care units (ICUs) experience excessive stress which may disrupt their performance in daily life. Empathy is basic to the nursing role and has been found to be associated with improved patient outcomes and greater satisfaction with care in patient and his/her family. However, few studies have investigated the nursing empathy with ICU patients. This study aimed to assess nursing empathy and its relationship with the needs, from the perspective of families of patients in ICU.


In this cross-sectional study, 418 subjects were selected among families of patients admitted to ICUs in Tabriz, Iran, by convenience sampling, from May to August 2012. Data were collected through Barrett-Lennard Relationship inventory (BLRI) empathy scale and Critical Care Family Needs Intervention (CCFNI) inventories and were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistical tests.


Findings showed that most of the nurses had high level of empathy to the patients (38.8%). There was also statistically significant relationship between nurses' empathy and needs of patients' families (p < 0.001).


In this study we found that by increasing the nurse's empathy skills, we would be able to improve providing family needs. Through empathic communication, nurses can encourage family members to participate in planning for the care of their patients. However, further studies are necessary to confirm the results.


Empathy; Family; Intensive care unit; Need; Nurse

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