Paquette, Katherine [faculty advisor, College of Nursing]
palliative website education
An alarming trend in hospitals across the United States is the increased prevalence of end-of-life care issues the healthcare team must face. This increase can be attributed to the advent of new medical technology; the average life expectancy of the population is increased due to new treatment options for acute diseases. The dire tradeoff of this benefit is that the main cause of death has shifted from acute disease to chronic diseases such as cancer. These debilitating diseases often result in situations where patients are no longer able to exercise autonomy or communicate, relying on family and healthcare providers to advocate for their wishes. This is especially true for the ICU nurse, a member of the healthcare team who has the opportunity and privilege to assist the acutely ill patient and their family in making end-of-life care decisions.
The reality of this scenario is that healthcare providers, despite working in the face of death on a daily basis, are still uncomfortable with end-of-life care. A recent study at Newport Hospital confirms this fact. A unit survey of ICU nurses revealed that nurses with over ten years of experience still communicated a lack of comfort with end-of-life care issues. Palliative Care Teams are born out of this discomfort; they are charged with improving the quality of life for dying patients and helping patients advocate for their last wishes. Relatively new to the healthcare team, they are invaluable but heavily underutilized. As the older adult patient population increases, it is becoming ever more important that patients and families have access to as many resources as possible regarding end-of-life care decisions in the ICU. This encompasses practical resources such as the Palliative Care Team, as well as logistical resources such as how the family is going to stay close to their loved one during their hospitalization.
What are the nursing implications of these resource needs? The first step to resource utilization is resource development. This is best accomplished by well-formulated patient and family education materials. This project is a response to these needs; it explores the formulation, production, and implementation of evidence-based patient and family education materials that can be used by healthcare providers on ICU units.