Visiting restrain to hospitals; family caregivers of COVID-19 ICU-patients experiences. An exploratory study


A novel situation for the intensive care units (ICUs) emerged after the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) started in Wuhan city in China in December 2019 and rapidly spread to a pandemic. To protect the patients and prevent the spread of corona virus family caregivers (FCs) globally have been prohibited to visit the patient at the hospital. Information to the FCs about the patients’ situation has been given by phone and only a few ICUs have had access to electronic devices that makes it possible to communicate with video transfer. This means the FCs have lacked face to face contact both with their loved ones and the staff providing care for him/her. It has been shown that FCs of ICU patients experience as much psychological distress as the patient. This encompasses anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms and complicated grief, a cluster of symptoms named Post Intensive Care Syndrome-family (PICS-family). COVID 19 is a new disease, we have little knowledge about it and the outcome for the patient is unknown. This is probably experienced as a threatening situation for the FCs of COVID 19 ICU patients. Being close to the sick family member is extremely important for FCs and the importance of FCs presence and participation in the ICU is increasingly acknowledged.

This is the first visiting restrain to hospitals in Norway and we have no knowledge about the consequences for the FCs regarding psychological distress when not being allowed to visit the patient. When negatively impacting the FCs we assume it will also impact negatively on the ICU patients.

No previous studies have investigated psychological distress in FCs of COVID-19 ICU patients and the consequences of the visiting restrain they experienced have not been explored.

Aim of the study:

To describe in depth FCs’ of COVID 19 patients experiences and needs during the visiting restrain at the ICU.


The aim of the study will be explored in a qualitative study during the autumn 2020. A semi-structured interview guide based on previous research and with input from the health care service users will be developed.


In total, 15 FCs of COVID 19 patients admitted to ICUs at OUS during the visiting restrain will be interviewed during autumn 2020 about their experiences and needs. 

Interviews will be performed by the PI in the FCs’ home or at the hospital.

Analyses of the data

The transcribed interviews will be analyzed according to Malterud’s method for systematic content condensation with four steps:
1. Overview of the data identifying themes,
2. Identifying meaning units - codes,  
3. Condensation, from codes to meaning,
4. Synthesizing- description of concepts.

Project leader: Kirsti Tøien

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