South African critical care nurses' views on end-of-life decision-making and practices.
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BACKGROUND: Care of patients at the end-of-life (EOL) may be influenced by the experiences, attitudes and beliefs of nurses involved in their direct care. AIM: To investigate South African critical care nurses' experiences and perceptions of EOL care. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey. METHODS: South African critical care nurses completed a modified version of the 'VENICE' survey tool. Data were collected concerning: attitudes towards EOL care; involvement in EOL decision-making; and beliefs about EOL practices. RESULTS: Of 149 surveys distributed, 100 were returned (response rate 67%). Seventy-six percent stated that they had had direct involvement in EOL care of patients, but a minority (29%) had participated in EOL decision-making processes. Whilst most nurses (86%) were committed to family involvement in EOL decisions, less than two thirds (62%) reported this as routine practice. When withdrawing treatment, around half (54%) of the respondents indicated they would decrease the inspired oxygen level to room air, and the majority (84%) recommended giving effective pain relief. Continued nutritional support (84%) and hydration (85%) were advocated, with most nurses (62%) indicating that they were against keeping patients deeply sedated. Most respondents (68%) felt patients should remain in intensive care at the end of life, with the majority (72%) supporting open-visiting, no restriction on number of family members visiting (70%), and the practising of religious or traditional cultural EOL rituals (93%). CONCLUSIONS: The involvement of Johannesburg critical nurses in EOL care discussions and decisions is infrequent despite their participation in care delivery and definite views about the process. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Use of formal guidelines and education is recommended to increase the nurses' involvement in and their confidence in participating in EOL decisions. Educators, managers, senior nurses and other members of the multi-disciplinary team should collaborate to enable critical care nurses to become more involved in EOL care.
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