Background Nurses working in intensive care units may lack knowledge and skills in end-of-life care, find caring for dying patients and the patients’ families stressful, and lack support to provide this care.
Objectives To describe nurses’ perceptions of (1) knowledge and ability, (2) work environment, (3) support for staff, (4) support for patients and patients’ families, and (5) stress related to specific work situations in the context of end-of-life care before (phase 1) and after (phase 2) implementation of approaches to improve end-of-life care. The approaches were a nurse-developed bereavement program for patients’ families, use of a palliative medicine and comfort care team, preprinted orders for the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, hiring of a mental health clinical nurse specialist, and staff education in end-of-life care.
Methods Nurses in 4 intensive care units at a university medical center reported their perceptions of end-of-life care by using a 5-subscale tool consisting of 30 items scored on a 4-point Likert scale. The tool was completed by 91 nurses in phase 1 and 127 in phase 2.
Results Improvements in overall mean scores on the 5 sub-scales indicated that the approaches succeeded in improving nurses’ perceptions. In phase 2, most of the subscale overall mean scores were higher than a desired criterion (<2.0, good). Analysis of variance indicated that some improvements occurred over time differently in the units; other improvements occurred uniformly.
Conclusions Continued practice development is needed in end-of-life care issues.