BACKGROUND: Family presence during resuscitation is a growing topic in the field of prehospital emergency medicine. Emergency medicine service (EMS) providers interact with the relatives of acutely critically ill patients daily. Previous studies have found varying preferences towards family presence during resuscitation. Some EMS providers experience family presence affects patient treatment. The study aimed to gain insight into how EMS providers experience relatives of critically ill patients influence patient treatment.
METHODS: We used semi-structured individual interviews of specially trained paramedics and anaesthetists specialised in prehospital emergency medicine. A total of 11 interviews were conducted at a University Hospital in Copenhagen. Inductive qualitative contents analysis was used to analyse the data.
RESULTS: Relatives were defined as family, spouses, children, partners, close friends or colleagues, and, for some participants, more peripheral relationships such as schoolmates or acquaintances. We identified four themes, describing how EMS providers experience relatives' influence on patient treatment: 'supporting optimal patient treatment', 'futile resuscitation', 'negative impact on patient treatment', and 'the paediatric patient'.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study illustrates how EMS providers experience that treatment is influenced by relatives of acutely critically ill patients in the prehospital emergency medicine setting. Relatives can help or challenge treatment, and also influence EMS providers' clinical decision-making. Our findings can guide those working in prehospital emergency medicine towards utilising relatives of critically ill patients and increasing our understanding of how relatives can influence EMS providers' treatment and their clinical decision-making. Future studies should seek to quantify relatives' effect on treatment and investigate the clinical and ethical aspects of futile resuscitation.