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Identifying and overcoming the barriers to high-quality palliative care in the intensive care unit

Nelson, Judith E. MD, JD

doi: 10.1097/01.CCM.0000237249.39179.B1
Scientific Reviews

Initiatives to improve end-of-life care in intensive care units face several important barriers. These include inflated expectations for critical care therapies, which are shared by many clinicians and many patients and families; preoccupation with an unattainable level of prognostic certainty, delaying attention to palliative needs; and fragmentation of the healthcare team into separate “silos” of disciplines and specialties. The article reviews these barriers and relevant empirical evidence. Specific strategies to improve intensive care unit palliative care, including consultation by palliative care specialists, and palliative care quality measurement are discussed.

From the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, and Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute, Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Adult Development, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY.

Dr. Nelson has disclosed that she served as a consultant in ICU palliative care quality improvement for VHA, Inc., a national not-for-profit U.S. hospitals.

Supported, in part, by an Independent Scientist Research Career Development Award, K02 AG024476, from the National Institute on Aging.

© 2006 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins