The Family's Role in ECMO
Family members and friends are encouraged to visit while their loved one is on
ECMO. However, the timing of visits by young children are usually discussed with the nurse ahead of
time, so they can prepare both the patient, if awake and his/her children for the visit. Most hospitals
also prefer that younger children meet with a child life specialist before visiting the ECMO patient, so
that they can be prepared for what they will see in the room. For more information on unit visitation
policies, please ask your loved one's bedside nurse.
family members feel more comfortable when they are able to "do something" for their loved one,
and there are many simple things you can do to help the healing process. Below is a list of some of
those things. Please be sure to check with the bedside nurse first to make sure it is safe to touch or
talk to your loved one, and that he/she is getting enough rest.
- Talk, read, or sing to your loved one. All patients know the voices of people they love. Even if
he or she is very sleepy, hearing your voice will help comfort him/her.
- Bring in some of your loved one's items from home, such as pictures.
- Play his/her favorite music.
- Rub lotion on your loved one's skin, especially hands and feet.
- Perform passive range-of-motion exercises. The physical therapist or bedside nurse can show you
From time to time, the ECMO team will hold family conferences to talk about
your loved one's progress and any problems or concerns. These talks may include the ECMO team, a
palliative care specialist, a chaplain, as well as family and or friends of your choosing. Family
conferences can be called weekly, every other day, or as often as you would like. The ECMO team will
also make rounds with the doctor in the intensive care unit every day, and you are welcome to join that
discussion as well.