Improving Caregivers' Perceptions Regarding Patient Goals of Care/End-of-Life Issues for the Multidisciplinary Critical Care Team

J Intensive Care Med. 2017 Jan;32(1):68-76. doi: 10.1177/0885066615606063. Epub 2015 Sep 28.


Objective: With population aging and growth, use of critical care medicine at the end of life continues to rise, while many critical care providers are not adequately trained regarding goals of care/end-of-life (GOC/EOL) issues. A multidisciplinary intensive care unit (ICU) team intervention regarding GOC/EOL communication will enhance the clinical abilities of all critical care providers when discussing GOC/EOL issues and increase ICU staff comfort level while improving transitions for patients to a comfort care approach.

Design: This study was a preintervention/postintervention survey evaluation.

Setting: This study was conducted at an academic tertiary surgical burn trauma ICU.

Population: The intervention was provided to nursing, ancillary staff, house staff, and attending physicians.

Intervention: An initial survey was circulated among the critical care staff for baseline expectations, satisfaction, and understanding of GOC/EOL care. A robust intervention was begun including the creation of a multidisciplinary GOC/EOL team, communication tools for providers, patient-family pamphlets, standardized EOL order sets, and formalized didactic sessions. Subsequently, the same survey was circulated and compared to baseline data.

Measurements: Preintervention/postintervention survey data were reviewed and statistically analyzed.

Main results: Our survey response rate for preintervention/postintervention was 50.4% and 36.1%, respectively. The intervention generated heightened interest in improving family communication and provided focal direction to foster this growth. Based on the serial surveys regarding our intervention, statistically significant staff improvements were seen in "work stress" (P = .04), "EOL information" (P = .006), and "space allotment" (P = .001). Improved congruence of families and health care providers regarding decision over intensity of care was also noted.

Conclusion: We created a novel unit-based multidisciplinary program for improved EOL/GOC approaches in the critical care setting. A similarly formatted program could be adapted by other ICUs. Benefits of such a program include improving caregivers' perceptions regarding EOL/GOC issues and fostering critical care team growth.

Keywords: communication; education; end-of-life care; goals of care; multidisciplinary; order sets.

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Communication
  • Critical Care / organization & administration*
  • Critical Care / standards
  • Critical Illness / psychology*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Pamphlets
  • Patient Care Planning*
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Terminal Care / organization & administration*
  • Terminal Care / standards
  • United States