Background Providing appropriate end-of-life care has become a primary concern of nurses and the public. The highly technological critical care environment may not facilitate such care.

Objective To collect suggestions from critical care nurses for improving end-of-life care in intensive care units.

Methods A geographically dispersed, random sample of 1409 members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses was sent a 72-item survey on perceptions of end-of life care. The survey included a request for suggestions on ways to improve end-of life care.

Results Of the 861 critical care nurses who responded to the survey, 485 offered 530 suggestions for improving end-of-life care. Providing a “good death” was the major theme; specific suggestions included ways to help ensure death with dignity and peace. Barriers to providing good deaths included nursing time constraints, staffing patterns, communication challenges, and treatment decisions that were based on physicians’ rather than patients’ needs. Suggestions for providing a good death included facilitating dying with dignity; not allowing patients to be alone while dying; managing patients’ pain and discomfort; knowing, and then following, patients’ wishes for end-of-life care; promoting earlier cessation of treatment or not initiating aggressive treatment at all; and communicating effectively as a health-care team. Educational initiatives for professionals and the public were also suggested.

Conclusions Implementation of specific suggestions provided by experienced critical care nurses might increase the quality of end-of-life care, facilitating a good death for intensive care patients.

You do not currently have access to this content.