Introduction: Care in the Intensive Care Unit involves contemplating, among other dimensions of the patient, the family. For this, it is necessary for the nurse to establish relationships with the patient's relatives. Objective: To identify the way in which the nurse-family relationship is established in the adult ICU, as well as the conditions, elements and factors that favour or hinder it. Method: Integrative narrative review of the scientific literature. The databases consulted were Ovid, PubMed, Science Direct, Scopus, Clinical Key, Google Scholar and Scielo. Articles in English and Spanish published between 2014 and 2018 were searched. The descriptors and formulas used were selected according to the acronym Population and their problems, Exposure and Outcomes or themes- PEO. The population comprised ICU nurses and the relatives of patients in critical condition; Adult Intensive Care Unit exposure or context; the expected results, and how they are related. For the methodological evaluation, the STROBE guide was used for observational articles, PRISMA for review articles, COREQ for qualitative articles and CASPe for articles derived from projects. Results: We identified 214 articles, of which 63 were selected to be included in the review. The central themes identified were: the ICU environment and its effects on the family, empathy as an indicator of relationship, interaction as a means of relating, communication as the centre of relationships and barriers to the establishment of relationships. Conclusions: The nurse-family relationship in the Intensive Care Unit is based on interaction and communication amidst human, physical, regulatory and administrative barriers. Improving the nurse-family relationship contributes to the humanization of Adult Intensive Care Units.
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