Objective: To examine perceptions by intensive care unit (ICU) workers of unrestricted visitation, to measure visiting times, and to determine prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depression in family members.
Design: Observational, prospective, single-center cohort.
Setting: Medical-surgical ICU in a 460-bed tertiary-care hospital.
Patients: Two hundred nine consecutive patients hospitalized >3 days were studied over the first 5 ICU days.
Measurements and Main Results: Characteristics of patients (n = 209), families (n = 149), and ICU workers (n = 43) were collected. ICU workers reported their perceptions of unrestricted visitation, and family members completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Daily severity scores (Simplified Acute Physiology Score II and Logistic Organ Failure) and a workload score (Nine Equivalents of Nursing Manpower) were computed. Maximum median visit length was 120 mins per patient per day and occurred on days 4 and 5. No correlations were found among severity of illness, workload, and visit length. For 115 patients, both nurse and physician questionnaires were available; although several differences were noted, neither nurses nor physicians perceived open visitation as disrupting patient care. The median rating for delay in organizing care was “never” for physicians and “occasionally” for nurses. Nurses perceived more disorganization of care than physicians (p = .008). Compared with nurses, the physicians reported greater family trust (p = .0023), more family stress (p = .047), and greater unease when examining the patient (p = .02). The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale indicated symptoms of anxiety in 73 (49%) family members and depression in 44 (29.5%).
Conclusions: The 24-hr visitation policy was perceived favorably by families. It induced only moderate discomfort among ICU workers, due to the potential for care interruption, in particular for nurses.