End-of-life care in the critical care setting : nurses' practices and factors affecting these practices

Ranse, Kristen Louise (2013) End-of-life care in the critical care setting : nurses' practices and factors affecting these practices. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Background: Critical care units are designed and resourced to save lives, yet the provision of end-of-life care is a significant component of nursing work in these settings. Limited research has investigated the actual practices of critical care nurses in the provision of end-of-life care, or the factors influencing these practices. To improve the care that patients at the end of life and their families receive, and to support nurses in the provision of this care, further research is needed. The purpose of this study was to identify critical care nurses' end-of-life care practices, the factors influencing the provision of end-of-life care and the factors associated with specific end-of-life care practices.

Methods: A three-phase exploratory sequential mixed-methods design was utilised. Phase one used a qualitative approach involving interviews with a convenience sample of five intensive care nurses to identify their end-of-life care experiences and practices. In phase two, an online survey instrument was developed, based on a review of the literature and the findings of phase one. The survey instrument was reviewed by six content experts and pilot tested with a convenience sample of 28 critical care nurses (response rate 45%) enrolled in a postgraduate critical care nursing subject. The refined survey instrument was used in phase three of this study to conduct a national survey of critical care nurses. Descriptive analyses, exploratory factor analysis and univariate general linear modelling was undertaken on completed survey responses from 392 critical care nurses (response rate 25%).

Results: Six end-of-life care practice areas were identified in this study: information sharing, environmental modification, emotional support, patient and family-centred decision making, symptom management and spiritual support. The items most frequently identified as always undertaken by critical care nurses in the provision of end-of-life care were from the information sharing and environmental modification practice areas. Items least frequently identified as always undertaken included items from the emotional support practice area.

Eight factors influencing the provision of end-of-life care were identified: palliative values, patient and family preferences, knowledge, preparedness, organisational culture, resources, care planning, and emotional support for nurses. Strong agreement was noted with items reflecting values consistent with a palliative approach and inclusion of patient and family preferences. Variation was noted in agreement for items regarding opportunities for knowledge acquisition in the workplace and formal education, yet most respondents agreed that they felt adequately prepared. A context of nurse-led practice was identified, with variation in access to resources noted. Collegial support networks were identified as a source of emotional support for critical care nurses.

Critical care nurses reporting values consistent with a palliative approach and/or those who scored higher on support for patient and family preferences were more likely to be engaged in end-of-life care practice areas identified in this study. Nurses who reported higher levels of preparedness and access to opportunities for knowledge acquisition were more likely to report engaging in interpersonal practices that supported patient and family centred decision making and emotional support of patients and their families. A negative relationship was identified between the explanatory variables of emotional support for nurses and death anxiety, and the patient and family centred decision making practice area. Contextual factors had a limited influence as explanatory variables of specific end-of-life care practice areas. Gender was identified as a significant explanatory variable in the emotional and spiritual support practice areas, with male gender associated with lower summated scores on these practice scales.

Conclusions: Critical care nurses engage in practices to share control with and support inclusion of families experiencing death and dying. The most frequently identified end-of-life care practices were those that are easily implemented, practical strategies aimed at supporting the patient at the end of life and the patient's family. These practices arguably require less emotional engagement by the nurse. Critical care nurses' responses reflected values consistent with a palliative approach and a strong commitment to the inclusion of families in end-of-life care, and these factors were associated with engagement in all end-of-life care practice areas. Perceived preparedness or confidence with the provision of end-of-life care was associated with engagement in interpersonal caring practices. Critical care nurses autonomously engage in the provision of end-of-life care within the constraints of an environment designed for curative care and rely on their colleagues for emotional support. Critical care nurses must be adequately prepared and supported to provide comprehensive care in all areas of end-of-life care practice. The findings of this study raise important implications, and informed recommendations for practice, education and further research.

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ID Code: 63977
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Yates, Patricia & Coyer, Fiona
Keywords: end of life, practices, critical care, intensive care, nurse, PARIHS framework, context, evidence, facilitation, survey, mixed methods, descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis, general linear model, palliative values, patient and family centred care, preparedness
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 04 Nov 2013 23:24
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015 22:19

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