Family Stress

Family stress can be described as the “pressure or tension in the family system—a distur- bance in the steady state of the family” (Boss, 2002, p. 16). When faced with an acute illness, families are stressed because of changes in family life, threats to the individual and family, lives that are on hold, lack of information and communication, and waiting for answers (Davidson et al., 2007; Vandall-Walker & Clark, 2011). Diagnosis of an illness or admission to an acute care setting, a transfer, and discharge can increase stress as a family adjusts to the unknowns and changes (King et al., 2013; Stacy, 2012). Nurses who think family anticipate these times of family stress and offer support, explanations, and information.

The meanings of events and perceptions during an acute illness affect the degree of stress experienced (Boss, 2002; Davidson, 2010). Families try to gain some control in new situ- ations by using behaviors they believe will fulfill their needs (Hardin, 2012). For example, a family questions nurses about care and treatments to better understand. Some family members might be hesitant to ask questions; others are abrupt, annoyed, and agitated. Nurses who are family focused initiate relationships and conversation with a family to understand their experience and perceptions

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