Aims and objectives: To explore how nurses navigate communication with families during withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in intensive care. Background: Death in the intensive care unit is seldom unexpected and often happens following the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. A family-centred approach to care relies on the development of a therapeutic relationship and understanding of what is happening to the patient. Whilst previous research has focused on the transition from cure to palliation and the nurse's role in supporting families, less is known about how nurses navigate communication with families during treatment withdrawal. Design: A qualitative descriptive approach was used. Semi-structured focus groups were conducted with adult critical care nurses from four intensive care units, two in Australia and two in New Zealand. Results: Twenty-one nurses participated in the study. Inductive content analysis revealed five key themes relating to how nurses navigate family communication: (1) establishing the WHO; (2) working out HOW; (3) judging WHEN; (4) assessing the WHAT; and (5) WHERE these skills were learnt. Conclusions: Navigating an approach to family communication during treatment withdrawal is a complex and multifaceted nursing activity that is known to contribute to family satisfaction with care. There is need for support and ongoing education opportunities that develop the art of communication in this frequently encountered aspect of end-of-life care. Relevance to clinical practice: How nurses navigate communication with families during treatment withdrawal is just as important as what is communicated. Nurses need access to supports and education opportunities in order to be able to perform this vital role.