Perioperative nurses recognise that family members experience increased levels of anxiety during the wait for a relative undergoing a surgical procedure. It is often during this time that little or no meaningful communication occurs between family members and health professionals. It has been suggested that a structured information intervention has the potential to increase communication between families and health care professionals as well as decrease family members’ anxiety.

The aim of this study was to establish the effect of a structured communication program on anxiety of family members’ awaiting relatives undergoing surgical procedures. A quasi-experimental design was used with a sample of 129 family members of patients undergoing surgical procedures in a tertiary hospital in Brisbane, Australia. Consecutive sampling was used to recruit family members for the control group and the intervention group. The intervention group received a structured intervention which included an information card as well as an in-person nursing report. The control group received usual care. A demographic data collection form and the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory were used to collect data.

Results from the study suggest that the structured communication intervention reduced family anxiety; however, results were not statistically significant. An important finding of this study was that only one relative in the control group received information during the perioperative time period indicating a need to improve communication between families and staff. It was concluded that more nursing interventions designed to reduce family members’ anxiety during the operative waiting period are needed.