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Crit Care Med. 2006 Nov;34(11 Suppl):S332-40.

Communication between physicians and nurses as a target for improving end-of-life care in the intensive care unit: challenges and opportunities for moving forward.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.


Our objective was to discuss obstacles and barriers to effective communication and collaboration regarding end-of-life issues between intensive care unit nurses and physicians. To evaluate practical interventions for improving communication and collaboration, we undertook a systematic literature review. An increase in shared decision making can result from a better understanding and respect for the perspectives and burdens felt by other caregivers. Intensive care unit nurses value their contributions to end-of-life decision making and want to have a more active role. Increased collaboration and communication can result in more appropriate care and increased physician/nurse, patient, and family satisfaction. Recommendations for improvement in communication between intensive care unit physicians and nurses include use of joint grand rounds, patient care seminars, and interprofessional dialogues. Communication interventions such as use of daily rounds forms, communication training, and a collaborative practice model have shown positive results. When communication is clear and constructive and practice is truly collaborative, the end-of-life care provided to intensive care unit patients and families by satisfied and engaged professionals will improve markedly.

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