Inter-ICU transfer of patients with ventilator dependent respiratory failure: Qualitative analysis of family and physician perspectives

Patient Educ Couns. 2019 Sep;102(9):1703-1710. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2019.04.005. Epub 2019 Apr 5.


Objectives: Ventilator dependent respiratory failure (VDRF) patients are seriously ill and often transferred between ICUs. Our objective was to obtain multi-stakeholder insights into the experiences of families during inter-ICU transfer.

Methods: We conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with family members of VDRF patients as well as clinicians that have received or transferred VDRF patients to our hospital. Interviews were transcribed and template analysis was used to identify themes within/across stakeholder groups.

Results: Patient, family, clinician and systems-level factors were identified as key themes during inter-ICU transfer. The main findings highlight that family members were rarely engaged in the decision to transfer as well as a lack of standardized communication between clinicians during care transitions. Family members were reassured with the care after transfer in spite of practical and financial challenges. Clinicians acknowledged the lack of a systematic approach for meeting the needs of families and suggested various resources.

Conclusions: This is one of the first qualitative studies to gather a multi-stakeholder perspective and identify problems faced by families during inter-ICU transfer of VDRF patients.

Practice implications: Our results provide a starting point for the development of family-centered support interventions which will need to be tested in future studies.

Keywords: Family perception; Inter-ICU transfer; Qualitative study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Transfer*
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*