Critical Care Nurses Suggestions to Improve End-of-Life Care Obstacles

Critical-care nurses (CCNs) provide end-of-life (EOL) care on a daily basis as 1 in 5 patients dies while in intensive care units. Critical-care nurses overcome many obstacles to perform quality EOL care for dying patients | Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing

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Objectives: The purposes of this study were to collect CCNs’ current suggestions for improving EOL care and determine if EOL care obstacles have changed by comparing results to data gathered in 1998.

Methods: A 72-item questionnaire regarding EOL care perceptions was mailed to a national, geographically dispersed, random sample of 2000 members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. One of 3 qualitative questions asked CCNs for suggestions to improve EOL care. Comparative obstacle size (quantitative) data were previously published.

Results: Of the 509 returned questionnaires, 322 (63.3%) had 385 written suggestions for improving EOL care. Major themes identified were ensuring characteristics of a good death, improving physician communication with patients and families, adjusting nurse-to-patient ratios to 1:1, recognizing and avoiding futile care, increasing EOL education, physicians who are present and “on the same page,” not allowing families to override patients’ wishes, and the need for more support staff. When compared with data gathered 17 years previously, major themes remained the same but in a few cases changed in order and possible causation.

Conclusion: Critical-care nurses’ suggestions were similar to those recommendations from 17 years ago. Although the order of importance changed minimally, the number of similar themes indicated that obstacles to providing EOL care to dying intensive care unit patients continue to exist over time.

Full reference: Beckstrand, R.L. et al. (2017) Critical Care Nurses Suggestions to Improve End-of-Life Care Obstacles: Minimal Change Over 17 Years. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing. 36(4) pp. 264–270

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