Deaths in the intensive care unit (ICU) represent an experience of suffering for patients, their families, and professionals. End-of-life (EOL) care has been added to the responsibilities of the ICU team, but the evidence supporting EOL care is scarce, and there are many barriers to implementing the clinical recommendations that do exist.
To explore the experiences and perspectives of the various members of an ICU care team in Chile regarding the EOL care of their patients.
A qualitative study was performed in the ICU of a high-complexity academic urban hospital. The study used purposive sampling with focus groups as a data collection method. A narrative analysis based on grounded theory was done.
Four discipline-specific focus groups were conducted; participants included 8 nurses, 6 nursing assistants, 8 junior physicians, and 6 senior physicians. The main themes that emerged in the analysis were emotional impact and barriers to carrying out EOL care. The main barriers identified were cultural difficulties related to decision-making, lack of interprofessional clinical practice, and lack of effective communication. Communication difficulties within the team were described along with lack of self-efficacy for family-centered communication.
These qualitative findings expose gaps in care that must be filled to achieve high-quality EOL care in the ICU. Significant emotional impact, barriers related to EOL decision-making, limited interprofessional clinical practice, and communication difficulties were the main findings cross-referenced.