Perspectives of physicians and nurses regarding end-of-life care in the intensive care unit

Emir Festic, Michael E. Wilson, Ognjen Gajic, Gavin D. Divertie, Jeffrey T. Rabatin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Context: The delivery of end-of-life care (EOLC) in the intensive care unit (ICU) varies widely among medical care providers. The differing opinions of nurses and physicians regarding EOLC may help identify areas of improvement. Objective: To explore the differences of physicians and nurses on EOLC in the ICU and how these differences vary according to self-reported proficiency level and primary work unit. Design: Cross-sectional survey of 69 ICU physicians and 629 ICU nurses. Setting: Single tertiary care academic medical institution. Results: A total of 50 physicians (72%) and 331 nurses (53%) participated in the survey. Significant differences between physicians and nurses were noted in the following areas: ability to safely raise concerns, do not resuscitate (DNR) decision making, discussion of health care directives, timely hospice referral, spiritual assessment documentation, utilization of social services, and the availability of EOLC education. In every domain of EOLC, physicians reported a more positive perception than nurses. Additional differences were noted among physicians based on experience, as well as among nurses based on their primary work unit and self-reported proficiency level. Conclusions: Even with an increased focus on improving EOLC, significant differences continue to exist between the perspectives of nurses and physicians, as well as physicians among themselves and nurses among themselves. These differences may represent significant barriers toward providing comprehensive, consistent, and coordinated EOLC in the ICU.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Intensive Care Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • attitude of health personnel
  • end of life
  • intensive care unit
  • nurse
  • physician

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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