In patients receiving mechanical ventilation, prolonged exposure to sedative and analgesic medications contributes to negative clinical outcomes.


To reduce exposure to sedative and analgesic medications among patients receiving mechanical ventilation by implementing a nurse-driven sedation protocol.


This quality improvement project followed a plan-do-study-act cycle. Nurses were educated on the protocol, and 30 patient medical records were reviewed both before and after protocol implementation. Data were extracted on intensive care unit length of stay, duration of mechanical ventilation, duration of continuous sedation, presence of delirium, pain, level of sedation, and performance and documentation of spontaneous awakening trials. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, the χ2 test, and calculated percent change.


Forty-four nurses completed protocol education. The mean (SD) duration of mechanical ventilation decreased by 26% (from 5 [3.7] days to 3.7 [3.2] days), and the mean (SD) intensive care unit length of stay decreased by 27% (from 6.3 [4.3] days to 4.6 [3.7] days). The mean (SD) duration of continuous sedation decreased by 35% (from 6419 [7241] minutes to 4178 [4507] minutes). Spontaneous awakening trials documented increased by 35% (from 57% to 77%), and spontaneous awakening trials performed increased by 92% (from 40% to 77%), a statistically significant change (P = .004).


These preliminary data suggest that implementation of a nurse-driven sedation protocol resulted in favorable outcomes by decreasing duration of mechanical ventilation, intensive care unit length of stay, and duration of continuous sedation and increasing the number of spontaneous awakening trials performed.

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