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The effects of family-witnessed resuscitation on health professionals

13 August 2020
10 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 15



To gain an understanding of the effects of family-witnessed resuscitation (FWR) on health professionals.


FWR has been the subject of an ongoing debate for almost 30 years. Historically, emergency departments (EDs) have excluded family members of a critically ill or injured patient from the treatment area during resuscitation.


A systematic literature search of six nursing-focused databases was undertaken using pertinent keywords. Only studies published in English, focused on ED staff and undertaken after 2007 (published up to 2017) were included.


FWR is not commonly practised by health professionals. The four themes identified were: fear of adverse litigation; the importance of the role of the facilitator; lack of FWR policies in the workplace; and staff lack of knowledge and education regarding FWR, resulting in fear and stress.


By implementing policies in the workplace, and having a facilitator to provide support and guidance to families, stress and anxiety can be greatly reduced. The implementation of educational programmes can increase staff awareness and knowledge surrounding the benefits of FWR

Family-witnessed resuscitation (FWR) is the process of active medical cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the presence of family members (Oman and Duran, 2010). FWR was first pioneered at Foote Hospital, Jackson, Michigan, in the 1980s, when the relatives of two patients asked to be present while their loved one underwent resuscitation (Hanson and Strawer, 1992). The Foote hospital study led to a number of American, British and Australian hospitals implementing the same policies to give family members the right to choose to be present. This significant study brought FWR to the world's attention and raised questions regarding traditional FWR practice in emergency departments. Yet, the need for FWR is still being debated (Demir, 2008; Johnson, 2017).

The presence of family during resuscitation has been a controversial topic for many years. In recent decades, there has been an increased recognition by health professionals for the need to have a more family-centred approach to resuscitative care (Ferrara et al, 2016). This recognition facilitated the emergence of FWR, where families or significant others are located where they can see and touch the patient during resuscitation (Chapman et al, 2013; Lederman et al, 2014). There is also evidence of support for family presence during resuscitation among the general public with 73.1% wanting to witness a loved one being resuscitated (Ong et al, 2007). There is an expectation that relatives should be enabled to stay with their loved ones during resuscitation attempts (Duran et al, 2007; Wendover, 2012).

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