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Critical care nurses, End of life, Environment, ICU, Intensive care, Nursing, Obstacles, Physician, Staffing



  1. Beckstrand, Renea L. PhD, RN, CCRN, CNE
  2. Willmore, Elizabeth E. RN, MS, FNP-c
  3. Macintosh, Janelle L.B. PhD, RN
  4. Luthy, Karlen E. (Beth) DNP, FNP-c, FAANP, FAAN


Background: Critical care nurses (CCNs) frequently provide end of life (EOL) care in intensive care units (ICUs). Obstacles to EOL care in ICUs exist and have been previously published along with reports from CCNs. Further data exploring obstacles faced during ICU EOL care may increase awareness of common EOL obstacles. Research focusing on obstacles related to physician behaviors and nursing issues (and others) may provide improvement of care.


Objective: The aim of this study was to gather first-hand data from CCNs regarding obstacles related to EOL care.


Methods: A random, geographically dispersed sample of 2000 members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses was surveyed. Responses from an item asking CCNs to tell us of the obstacles they experience providing EOL care to dying patients were analyzed.


Results: There were 104 participants who provided 146 responses to this item reflecting EOL obstacles. These obstacles were divided into 11 themes; 6 physician-related obstacles and 5 nursing- and other related obstacles. Major EOL ICU barrier themes were inadequate physician communication, physicians giving false hope, poor nurse staffing, and inadequate EOL care education for nurses.


Discussion and Conclusion: Poor physician communication was the main obstacle noted by CCNs during ICU EOL care, followed by physicians giving false hope. Heavy patient workloads with inadequate staffing were also a major barrier in CCNs providing EOL care.