A review of articles published between 2000 and 2013, retrieved from several databases, was conducted to identify research findings regarding nursing interventions intended to meet the needs of the family members of patients in the intensive care unit. The dimensions of need identified were support, comfort, reassurance, information and closeness, with reassurance, information and closeness being the most important. Overall, the needs of patients’ family members were unmet. The results of studies revealed that providing families with proactive communication strategies and information via brochures or leaflets, developing education programmes and establishing family-centred care may be effective in increasing family members’ satisfaction, improving their understanding of the patient’s condition and decreasing anxiety and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Consequently, nurses should promote comprehensive family-centred care by using the best evidence to meet families’ needs. However, more experimental studies are required to determine the effectiveness of specific interventions.