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Do-Not-Resuscitate Decisions in the Medical ICU : Comparing Physician and Nurse Opinions

Arn H. Eliasson; Robin S. Howard; Kenneth G. Torrington; Thomas A. Dillard; Yancy Y Phillips
Author and Funding Information

From the Departments of Medicine and Clinical Investigation, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, and the Department of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md.


1997 by the American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 1997;111(4):1106-1111. doi:10.1378/chest.111.4.1106
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Abstract

Study objective: To determine how soon after admission to a medical ICU physicians and nurses decide that attempts at resuscitation are inappropriate and how frequently physicians and nurses disagree about do-not-resuscitate (DNR) decisions.

Design: Prospective, opinion survey of care providers.

Setting: Ten-bed adult medical ICU in a university-affiliated tertiary care referral hospital.

Patients: Consecutive adult medical ICU admissions.

Interventions: Over 10 months, physicians and nurses were surveyed independently every day regarding their opinions about DNR issues on each patient in the ICU.

Measurements: ICU day when DNR order was deemed appropriate by either physicians or nurses.

Results: Of 368 consecutive admissions, 84 (23%) patients were designated DNR during their ICU stay. In 6 of these 84 cases (7%), the responsible nurse did not agree that DNR orders were appropriate. In the remaining 78 patients designated DNR, the median time for physicians to recommend DNR (median, 1 day; range, 0 to 22 days) was not significantly different from the median time for nurses (median, 1 day; range, 0 to 13 days); (p=0.45). For the 284 patients not designated DNR, physicians and nurses both believed DNR was appropriate in 14 cases (5%), but a DNR order was not written five times (2%) because there was not time to do so and nine times (3%) because patient or family did not concur. Physicians and nurses disagreed about a DNR recommendation in 33 of the 284 patients not designated DNR (12%). Physicians were more likely to believe that DNR was appropriate than were nurses (p<0.0005), with physicians alone recommending DNR 29 times (10%) and nurses alone favoring DNR in four cases (1%).

Conclusions: At our institution, recognition of DNR appropriateness by nurses and physicians occurs over a similar time frame. However, physicians are more likely to recommend DNR in cases of disagreement between nurses and physicians.


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