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Making Ideas “Stick”: The 15-Minute Family Interview

Making Ideas “Stick”: The 15-Minute Family Interview

I’ve been thinking a lot about the struggle we have to make ideas “stick”.  In my work of creating and disseminating family nursing knowledge, I invite nurses to change their beliefs and behavior about families and “get” the benefits that exist for families and nurses when families are included in health care. Chip Heath and Dan Heath wrote a book called Made To Stick  that examines the current research about why some ideas survive and other die.  They argue that simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional, and stories are the six key qualities of an idea that is made to stick.

My vote for one of the most “sticky” ideas in family nursing is the 15-Minute Family Interview developed by Dr. Lorraine Wright and Dr. Maureen Leahey (Nurses and Families: A Guide of Family Assessment and Intervention, 6th edition, 2013) and first published in 1999.

Here is a sample of useful therapeutic questions from the 15-Minute Family Interview (Wright & Leahey, 2013, p. 271) that every family deserves to be asked:


  1. How can we be most helpful to you and your family (or friends) during your hospitalization? (Clarifies expectations and increases collaboration.)
  2. What has been the most and least helpful to you in past hospitalizations or clinic visits? (Identifies past strengths and problems to avoid and successes to repeat.)
  3. What is the greatest challenge facing your family during this hospitalization, discharge, or clinic visit? (Indicates actual or potential suffering, roles, and beliefs.)
  4. Who do you believe is suffering the most in your family during this hospitalization, clinic visit, or home-care visit? (Identifies the family member who has the greatest need for support and intervention.)

Here is an updated list of Publications and Resources for anyone who wishes to learn more about the 15-Minute Family Interview (developed by Wright & Leahey) as a very useful template for offering BRIEF therapeutic conversations to individuals and families experiencing illness:

Bell, J. M. (2012). Making ideas stick: The 15-Minute Family Interview [Editorial]. Journal of Family Nursing, 18(2), 171-174. doi:10.1177/1074840712443663

Goudreau, J., Duhamel, F., & Ricard, N. (2006). The impact of a Family Systems Nursing educational program on the practice of psychiatric nurses: A pilot study. Journal of Family Nursing, 12, 292-306. doi:10.1177/1074840706291694

Holtslander, L. (2005). Clinical application of the 15-minute family interview: Addressing the needs of posttpartum families. Journal of Family Nursing, 11(1), 5-18. doi:10.1177/1074840704273092

Holtslander, L., Solar, J., & Smith, N.R. (2013). The 15-Minute Family Interview as a learning strategy for senior undergraduate nursing students. Journal of Family Nursing, 19(2), 230-248. doi:10.1177/1074840712472554

Leahey, M., & Svavarsdottir, E. K. (2009). Implementing family nursing: How do we translate knowledge into clinical practice? Journal of Family Nursing, 15, 445-460. doi:10.1177/1074840709349070

LeGrow, K., & Rossen, B. E. (2005). Development of professional practice based on a Family Systems Nursing Framework: Nurses’ and families’ experiences. Journal of Family Nursing, 11, 38-58. doi:10.1177/1074840704273508

Martinez, A.-M., D’Artois, D., & Rennick, J. E. (2007). Does the 15 minute (or less) family interview influence family nursing practice? Journal of Family Nursing,13, 157-178. doi:10.1177/1074840707300750

Moules, N., & Johnstone, H. (2010). Commendations, conversations, and life-changing realizations: Teaching and practicing family nursing. Journal of Family Nursing,16, 146-160. doi:10.1177/1074840710365148

Svavarsdottir, E. K. (2008). Excellence in nursing: A model for implementing Family Systems Nursing in nursing practice at an institutional level in Iceland. Journal of Family Nursing, 14, 456-468. doi:10.1177/1074840708328123

Svavarsdottir, E. K., Tryggvadottir, G. B., & Sigurdardottir, A. O. (2012). Does a short-term therapeutic conversation intervention benefit families of children and adolescents in a hospital setting? Findings from the The Landspital University Hospital Implementation Project. Journal of Family Nursing, 18(3), 303-327. doi: 10.1177/1074840712449202

Wright, L. M., & Leahey, M. (1999).  Maximizing time, minimizing suffering: The 15-minute (or less) family interview.  Journal of Family Nursing, 5(3), 259-273. doi:10.1177/107484079900500302

Wright, L. M., & Leahey, M. (Producers).  (2000). How to do a 15 minute (or less) interview [DVD/Videotape]. (available from

Wright, L. M., & Leahey, M. (2013).  Nurses and families: A guide to family assessment and intervention (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.  (See Chapter 9:  pp.263-279, “How to Do a 15-Minute (or Shorter) Family Interview“).