Background: A number of international studies have explored the views of family members and healthcare professionals on the concept of family witnessed resuscitation. However, the perspective and preferences of patients have been under-researched.
Objectives: To explore the views and preferences of resuscitation survivors and those admitted as emergency cases, as to whether family members should be present at their resuscitation.
Design: This paper reports the qualitative findings of a wider study, whose aim was to explore patient preferences towards family witnessed resuscitation.
Settings: Study sites included four acute university hospitals in two large cities of the South-West of England.
Participants: A purposive sample of 21 patients who underwent successful resuscitation and 41 patients, who presented to hospital as emergency cases, but without the experience of resuscitation, were recruited to the study.
Methods: To generate in-depth understanding about the phenomenon under inquiry, qualitative data were collected from face-to-face interviews. All responses were hand written and analysed using recognised qualitative techniques.
Findings: Three main themes emerged and these included: 'being there', 'welfare of others' and 'professionals' management of the event'. While the majority of participants supported the premise of having loved ones present during resuscitation, their motives varied and often related to the needs of families. Participants recognised that healthcare professionals had to exercise discretionary judgements to manage the resuscitation, which could embrace shielding relatives from distressing scenes and dealing with issues of confidentiality.
Conclusions: The study provides a unique understanding of patient preferences of family witnessed resuscitation with some of their views contesting arguments in the literature. Patients' perspectives suggest both relatives and they themselves benefit in different ways. Although participants recognised that family members had emotional, informational and proximity needs, these had to be balanced with allowing the resuscitation team to manage the clinical emergency and make decisions. It is also evident that not all patients wish their families to be present. Healthcare professionals should strive to identify the wishes of patients and relatives in respect to family witnessed resuscitation and facilitate the presence of loved ones as appropriate. Further research into the area is still required.