Family members' lived experiences when a loved one undergoes an interhospital intensive care unit-to-unit transfer: A phenomenological hermeneutical study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Aims and objectives: To reveal meanings of family members' lived experiences when a loved one undergoes an interhospital intensive care unit-to-unit transfer. Background: Interhospital intensive care unit-to-unit transfers take place between different hospitals and their respective intensive care units (ICUs). These types of transfers are an increasing phenomenon but are sparsely studied from the family members' perspective. Indeed, the patient's critical illness and care can have a major impact on family members. During the transfer process, there is a demand for the involved intensive care health personnel to make family members feel safe and cared for. Design: A qualitative design based on phenomenological hermeneutics. Methods: The study was conducted at two Swedish general ICUs. Data were generated through individual in-depth interviews with seven family members and analysed using a phenomenological hermeneutical approach. The Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research principles were applied in the conduct and reporting of this study. Results: Four themes that reveal meanings of family members' lived experiences were developed: losing your safe haven, dealing with uncertainty, carrying your own and others' burdens and a wish to be close. Conclusions: The study reveals that an interhospital intensive care unit-to-unit transfer affects the whole family and is characterised by family members experiencing many negative feelings. The findings also illustrate that being a family member when a loved one is transferred means being exposed to the core existential elements of being human, such as loneliness and searching for meaning. Relevance to clinical practice: The study highlights the importance of maintaining a family-centred approach during the transfer process. Our findings can provide deeper knowledge for intensive care health personnel, better preparing them for the delicate task of providing family-centred care during the interhospital intensive care unit-to-unit transfer process.


External organisations
  • University of Borås
  • Sahlgrenska University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Nursing


  • critical care, family, intensive care, interhospital transfer, nursing, patient transfer, phenomenological hermeneutic research, qualitative research, qualitative studies, transportation of patients
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020 Jul 9
Publication categoryResearch