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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Transferring patients home to die: what is the potential population in UK critical care units?

Coombs M.A. et al. (2017) BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. 7:98-101

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Objectives: Most people when asked, express a preference to die at home, but little is known about whether this is an option for critically ill patients. A retrospective cohort study was undertaken to describe the size and characteristics of the critical care population who could potentially be transferred home to die if they expressed such a wish.

Conclusions: A little over 20% of patients dying in critical care demonstrate potential to be transferred home to die. Staff should actively consider the practice of transferring home as an option for care at end of life for these patients.

Read the full article here

Critical Care Nurses’ Perceptions of End-of-Life Care Obstacles

Beckstrand, R. et al. (2017) Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing. 36(2) pp. 94–105

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Abstract: Background: Nurses working in intensive care units (ICUs) frequently care for patients and their families at the end of life (EOL). Providing high-quality EOL care is important for both patients and families, yet ICU nurses face many obstacles that hinder EOL care. Researchers have identified various ICU nurse-perceived obstacles, but no studies have been found addressing the progress that has been made for the last 17 years.

Conclusions: Obstacles in EOL care, as perceived by critical care nurses, still exist. Family-related obstacles have increased over time. Obstacles related to families may not be easily overcome as each family, dealing with a dying family member in an ICU, likely has not previously experienced a similar situation. On the basis of the current top 5 obstacles, recommendations for possible areas of focus include (1) improved health literacy assessment of families followed by earlier directed, appropriate, and specific EOL information; (2) improved physician/team communication; and (3) ensuring patients’ wishes are followed as written. In general, patient- and family-centered care using clear and open EOL communication regarding wishes and desires between patients and families, their physicians, and nurses will help decrease common obstacles, thus improving the quality of EOL care provided to dying patients and families.

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Palliative Care Triggers in the Intensive Care Unit

Jones, B. & Bernstein, C. (2017) Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing. 36(2) pp. 106–109

There is growing recognition that electronic medical record triggers in the intensive care unit (ICU) have led to an increase in palliative care consultations. One suburban health care system adopted triggers unique to their culture and setting in a pilot study and saw an increase in palliative consultations in the ICU. Implementing triggers is often a complex and multifaceted process to adopt. This review shares the steps from concept to implementation of establishing palliative prompts in 1 ICU within an integrated health care system.

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How nurses support families of intensive care patients towards the end of life

Families of people dying in intensive care need to receive personalised communication and ongoing support, and be involved in the dying process | NIHR

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Researchers gathered evidence on how nurses care for patients and their families in intensive care when life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn. The included studies explored the care of the family before, during and after the process. Most of the studies in this small, mixed methods review were qualitative.

Reviewers identified three main ways, or themes, in which families are supported. First, information and good communication, such as the focus on careful use of language, was seen commonly. Second, by careful management of treatment withdrawal itself, for example by clarifying the gradual change expected when medically focussed life-sustaining treatments are withdrawn and family centred end-of-life care begins. Lastly they described a common focus on making the nursing contribution more visible, such as using techniques to build lasting memories for families.

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A Randomized Trial of Palliative Care Discussions Linked to an Automated Early Warning System Alert.

Picker, D. et al. Critical Care Medicine. Published online: October 20 2016

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Objective: To determine whether an Early Warning System could identify patients wishing to focus on palliative care measures.

Design: Prospective, randomized, pilot study.

Setting: Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Saint Louis, MO (January 15, 2015, to December 12, 2015).

Patients: A total of 206 patients; 89 intervention (43.2%) and 117 controls (56.8%).

Interventions: Palliative care in high-risk patients targeted by an Early Warning System.

Measurements and Main Results: Advanced directive documentation was significantly greater prior to discharge in the intervention group (37.1% vs 15.4%; p < 0.001) as were first-time requests for advanced directive documentation (14.6% vs 0.0%; p < 0.001). Documentation of resuscitation status was also greater prior to discharge in the intervention group (36.0% vs 23.1%; p = 0.043). There was no difference in the number of patients requesting a change in resuscitation status between groups (11.2% vs 9.4%; p = 0.666). However, changes in resuscitation status occurred earlier and on the general medicine units for the intervention group compared to the control group. The number of patients transferred to an ICU was significantly lower for intervention patients (12.4% vs 27.4%; p = 0.009). The median (interquartile range) ICU length of stay was significantly less for the intervention group (0 [0-0] vs 0 [0-1] d; p = 0.014). Hospital mortality was similar (12.4% vs 10.3%; p = 0.635).

Conclusions: This study suggests that automated Early Warning System alerts can identify patients potentially benefitting from directed palliative care discussions and reduce the number of ICU transfers.

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Palliative care in the trauma ICU

O’Connell, K. & Maier, R. Current Opinion in Critical Care. Published online: September 21 2016

Purpose of review: The benefits of palliative care for critically ill patients are well recognized, yet acceptance into surgical culture is lagging. With the increasing proportion of geriatric trauma patients, integration of palliative medicine within daily intensive care services to facilitate goal-concordant care is imperative.

Recent findings: Misconceptions of palliative medicine as it applies to trauma patients linger among trauma surgeons and many continue to practice without routine consultation of a palliative care service. Aggressive end-of-life care does not correlate with an improved family perception of medical care received near death. Additionally, elderly patients near the end of life often prefer palliative treatments over life-extending therapy, and their treatment preferences are often not achieved. A new geriatric-specific prognosis calculator estimates the risk of mortality after trauma, which is useful in starting goals of care discussions with older patients and their families.

Summary: Shifting our quality focus from 30-day mortality rates to measurements of symptom control and achievement of patient treatment preferences will prioritize patient beneficence and autonomy. Ownership of surgical palliative care as a service provided by acute care surgeons will ensure that our patients with incurable injury and illness will receive optimal patient-centered care.

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