New Toolkit Aids Nurse Leaders in Reestablishing Family-Presence Policies

By Carol Davis

A new decision-making tool to help nurse leaders re-start family-presence policies that balance safety with a patient’s emotional need for family was released Tuesday.

The Family Presence Policy Decision-Making Toolkit for Nurse Leaders, a free resource, was developed by a stakeholder group consisting of nurses, healthcare executives, quality and safety experts, and patients and family caregivers convened by Planetree International, a not-for-profit organization that partners with healthcare organizations to create cultures of person-centered care.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems have worked to manage the spread of the virus with restrictive policies that limit family members’ physical presence in care settings.

The policies removed family caregivers—or Care Partners—as essential members of their loved one’s care team from actively participating in supporting and caring for their loved ones.

“People being separated from loved ones during a healthcare episode has caused immense suffering. Nurses and other caregivers have also agonized over the impact of these restrictions, struggling with what is the ‘right thing to do,’ ” Susan B. Frampton, PhD, president of Planetree International, said in a press release from the nonprofit. “This decision-making aid provides a structure to help leaders make these challenging decisions with confidence and to reinstate family caregivers at the bedside of their loved ones.”

The toolkit guides nurse leaders and others in considering a range of variables when considering allowing Care Partners in, including local conditions, resource availability, equity, and evidence about potential harms and benefits of family presence.

Once a nurse leader downloads the toolkit, they will answer questions by selecting the most fitting response for their organization. Each response correlates with a risk/benefit score indicating the degree to which the safety, quality, and well-being benefits of the in-person presence of family members outweigh potential risks.

Based on responses, a total score will be calculated, generating a recommendation for the level of family presence.

“The toolkit provides a practical solution for nurses to balance the need for safety and family presence, which is fundamental to continuing the healing process,” said Kate Judge, executive director of the American Nurses Foundation, which funded the project. “The foundation is committed to funding a solution that taps into building a healthier world through the power of nursing.”

The toolkit been endorsed by healthcare accrediting bodies, nurse professional organizations, patient and family advocacy groups, large health systems, and several international quality and safety organizations, according to Planetree International.

Several nurse leaders will share their experiences with establishing family presence policies during the pandemic on a free webinar on June 2, 2021 entitled, If It Were Your Family What Would You Want? A Balanced and Informed Approach to Reinstating Family Presence.

Registration for the webinar is at

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.