Objective To evaluate the effect of a standardized worksheet on physicians’ and nurses’ perceptions of their understanding of goals of care and on patients’ length of stay in an intensive care unit.

MethodsA worksheet was completed daily during multidisciplinary rounds and was posted at each bedside in the medical intensive care unit at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Information recorded included tests or procedures, medications, sedation, analgesia, catheters, consultations, nutrition, mobilization, family discussions, consents, and disposition. Attending physicians, residents, and nurses completed a questionnaire before implementation of the worksheet and 3 times afterwards. Responses were scored on a 5-point scale (1 = understand nothing, 5 = completely understand). Continuous variables were analyzed by using a t test; categorical variables, by using a χ2 test.

ResultsBefore the worksheet was implemented, scores for understanding goals were 3.9 for nurses and 4.6 for physicians. Scores increased to 4.8 for nurses (P = .001) and 4.9 for physicians (P = .03) 6 weeks later, an improvement that remained at 9 months. Both groups showed significant improvement in communication scores that lasted for 9 months. Most responders wanted to continue using the worksheet. During the study, the mean stay in the unit was 4.3 days, down from 6.4 days for the analogous 9-month period in the preceding year (P= .02).

Conclusion Nurses’ and physicians’ perceptions of their understanding of the goals of care and of communication between them were improved and stays in the unit were shortened when the worksheet was used.

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