Objective: To explore the experience of family members of a relative hospitalized in the intensive care unit and recognize their emotions and needs and describe the phases or milestones they go through and the strategies they use to cope with the situations that arise. Method: Qualitative study developed under the grounded theory method proposed by Anselm Strauss and Juliet Corbin. During the period from July 2017 to July 2019, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 relatives of hospitalized patients in fifteen third-level private clinics in the city of Manizales and Medellín, Colombia. In the latter, 200 hours of participant observation were performed in ICUs of two private third-level clinics. The analysis procedure consisted of a microanalysis of the data and the process of open, axial, and selective coding of the information was continued. Results: We identified that the experience of relatives when they accompany their sick relative in the intensive care unit is represented in two categories: family disorganization which is characterized by generating a change and mismatch in family dynamics and, family reorganization in which a restoration of order is sought to cope with the situation. Conclusions: The family in the intensive care unit develops a situational crisis characterized by intense, varied, and negative emotions and needs that wear down the relatives. Faced with this, family members undertake a reorganization process to restore the order of family dynamics to cope with the situation and overcome difficulties.
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