Family systems nursing, while considered a relatively new specialty has, in reality been around for a long time. The involvement of the family in caring for an ill family member has long been recognized as therapeutic. True, the primary focus of nursing seems concentrated on the patient, but the family and the home are “where health is learned, lived, and experienced” along with being “the niche where multiple members encounter and respond to disease and illness across the life course” (Denham, 2003, p. 143). Treating the patient and family as one unit is necessary to reduce the stress associated with illness, hospitalization, and discharge. Denham (2003) states nurses are uniquely empowered to see and address health as being intimately connected to the life of the family, and this knowledge of patient/family dynamics makes a difference when addressing the needs encountered by the family upon reentrance into the home setting.
Defining family as those who live with the patient narrows the true meaning. Years ago, family was defined as a father, mother, and children with the possible addition of grandparents. “The U.S. Census Bureau defines family as, “Two or more individuals related by blood, marriage, or adoption residing in the same household.” This definition, which combines household and kin is appropriate… because of the low degree to which kin outside the household rely on each other” (Ross, Mirowsky, & Goldstein, 1990). Sometimes it may be difficult to determine exactly who the patient considers to be family. In nursing practice a flexible definition of family is the key to providing the best outcomes for patients and family. This allows the nurse to evaluate and treat the patient within the context of what the patient perceives as family. According to Friedman, Bowden, and Jones (2003) when the nurse views the family system as the client, or as the primary focus of assessment and care, the family itself as a concept...
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