Document Type


Publication Date




Source Publication

Nursing in Critical Care

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Aims and objectives

The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate interventions that have been used to engage families in direct care activities (active family engagement) in adult, paediatric, and neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) settings.


Family engagement is universally advocated across ICU populations and practice settings; however, appraisal of the active family engagement intervention literature remains limited.

Search strategy

Ovid Medline, PsycArticles & PsycInfo, Scopus, and CINAHL were searched for family interventions that involved direct care of the patient to enhance the psychological, physical, or emotional well‐being of the patient or family in neonatal, paediatric, or adult ICUs.

Inclusion/exclusion criteria

Studies were included if an active family engagement intervention was evaluated. Studies were excluded if they were not published in English or reported non‐interventional research.


A total of 6210 abstracts were screened and 19 studies were included. Most studies were of low to moderate quality and were conducted in neonatal ICUs within the United States. Intervention dosage and frequency varied widely across studies. The interventions focused on developmental care (neonatal ICU) and involved families in basic patient care. Family member outcomes measured included satisfaction, stress, family‐centred care, confidence, anxiety, and depression. Most studies found improvements in one or more outcomes.


There is a paucity of literature about active family engagement interventions, especially in adult and paediatric populations. The optimal dosage and frequency of family engagement interventions remains unknown. Our systematic review found that data are limited on the relationship between family engagement and patient outcomes, and provides a timely appraisal to guide future research.

Relevance to Clinical Practice

Further research on the efficacy of family engagement interventions is warranted. The translation of active family engagement interventions into clinical practice should also be supported.


Published version. Nursing in Critical Care, Vol.27, No.3 (2022):296-325. DOI. © 2022 Wiley. Used with permission.

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