The effect of structured virtual patient visits (sVPVs) on COVID-19 patients and relatives' anxiety levels in intensive care unit

J Clin Nurs. 2022 Oct;31(19-20):2900-2909. doi: 10.1111/jocn.16117. Epub 2021 Nov 26.


Aim and objectives: To determine the effect of structured Virtual Patient Visits (sVPVs) on the anxiety, satisfaction, hospital anxiety and depression levels of intensive care unit (ICU) COVID-19 patients and their relatives.

Background: There is no evidence regarding the direct effect of virtual patient visits in the ICU.

Design: The STROBE statement guided this study. This investigator-initiated, prospective and single-centre study included COVID-19 patients and their relatives in an adult ICU between July and December 2020. We implemented daily sVPVs between all patients and their relatives. The study's primary outcome was the daily anxiety levels of patients and relatives immediately before and after sVPVs. The secondary outcomes were as follows: 1) hospital anxiety (HADS-A) and depression (HADS-D) levels during admission to and after discharge from the ICU and 2) satisfaction levels regarding the ICU and sVPVs of patients' relatives.

Results: A total number of 301 daily sVPVs were conducted between 50 patients and their relatives. There was a significant difference between daily anxiety levels before and after sVPVs in both patients (2.97 vs. 1.49) and their relatives (5.70 vs. 3.53; p > .05). Whereas the anxiety levels of patients with basic face or high flow nasal cannula and non-invasive mechanical ventilation decreased statistically significantly more than those with IMV after a sVPV (p < .001), there was not a significant difference in decreased anxiety levels of patients' relatives according to the type of respiratory support provided to the patient (p > .05). HADS-A levels of relatives decreased statistically significantly after discharge/death. There was no statistically significant difference in HADS-A and HADS-D levels after discharge/death between the relatives of patients who died or did not die (p > .05). Furthermore, the overall ICU satisfaction rates were statistically significantly lower in relatives of patients who died than those who did not die (p < .05).

Conclusion: Regardless of whether the patients were intubated, sVPVs reduced the anxiety levels of all patients and relatives. The sVPV programme offered emotional support to patients and family members, with high levels of satisfaction, as well as provided regular informative updates and the opportunity for daily visits or final goodbyes.

Relevance for clinical practice: The sVPV programme is essential for all ICUs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: coronavirus; critical care; intensive care units; nursing; relatives; virtual patient visit.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Family / psychology
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pandemics
  • Prospective Studies