Intensive care unit team at Cape Breton Regional Hospital proof positive that family-centred care works

Dr. Mandat Maharaj, neurologist and Melanie Gallant, RN. Seated is Betty MacInnis, ward clerk.

Just imagine the stress and anxiety you and your family might face if a loved one was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). There would be so many questions and sometimes difficult decisions to be made at a time when you are struggling to understand what is happening and why.

Evidence clearly shows it is the time when families need reassurance and good information most, which is exactly why the ICU team at Cape Breton Regional Hospital (CBRH) has adopted a family-centred approach to the care they deliver.

Family-centred care provides patients and families with strong professional support to understand the planning and delivery of health care through a true partnership with the health care team. It redefines traditional health care relationships by ensuring families are well-informed and directly involved in the care of their loved one.

For the ICU team at CBRH, making families feel like they are part of the team began with the introduction of open and flexible visiting hours that allow people to be present as much as they want and come to the ICU whenever their schedules allow.

Family members are strongly encouraged to be part of daily rounds with the health care team to have a better understanding of their loved one’s plan of care. Printed materials use easily-understood, plain language to describe medical terms. They are encouraged to ask lots of questions and receive answers that are clear, concise and not full of confusing terminology.

Families are very appreciative and results of a recent satisfaction survey show family-centred care is working. One family said the recent ICU stay their mother experienced was so much more positive than when their father was a patient 10 years ago. They felt informed, involved and welcomed.

Critical care unit manager Dorothy MacAskill says the goal is to show dignity and respect to patients and families by sharing information while seeking family participation and collaboration.

She says, “families are not visiting, they are family-ing and we need to welcome and support them at a time when their priority – and ours – is the well-being of their loved one.”

For more information on family-centred care, please visit