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Perception of Provision of Futile Care Among Clinicians in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit

Amoroso, Shanna; Chalela, Julio A.

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: October 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 5 - p 249–252
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0000000000000462

ABSTRACT BACKGROUND: Futile care in the neuroscience intensive care unit (NSICU) can create moral distress for clinicians who may differ in their interpretation of the value of such care. We sought to compare the perception of provision of futile care in the NSICU among physicians, advanced practice providers, and intensive care unit registered nurses (ICURNs). METHODS: This is a cross-sectional study of 77 patients. A standardized questionnaire was used to ask clinicians whether care being provided to NSICU patients admitted for more than 48 hours was futile and whether they would want that treatment for their loved one. Demographics, diagnosis, and reason for treatment futility were collected. Futility was analyzed independently and in an aggregate manner (yes/probable combined and no/probable combined). RESULTS: The sample median age was 61 (SD, 17.179) years, men comprised 53% of the sample, and 68% were white. Collectively, there were 77 futile responses (33%), 136 nonfutile (59%), and 18 probable futile (8%). Physicians and nurse practitioners deemed futility in 36% of patients; ICURNs, in 27% (P < .05). Age, race, or diagnosis did not impact futility perception. The treatment was acceptable for a loved one in 53% of cases for physicians, 43% for advanced practice providers, and 48% for ICURNs (P < .05). Interobserver agreement for futility was 0.469 (CK), and pairwise agreement was 71%. Interobserver agreement for treatment acceptable for a loved one was 0.568 (CK), and pairwise agreement was 78%. CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians consider NSICU care futile in one-third of patients, but correlation among them is moderate; no specific variable is associated with such perception.

Shanna Amoroso, ACNP, is Nurse Practitioner in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Julio A. Chalela, MD, at He is a Professor of Neurosurgery, Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Online date: August 30, 2019

© 2019 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses