Staff and family response to end-of-life care in the ICU

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Purpose of reviewEnd-of-life (EOL) care can be stressful for clinicians as well as patients and their relatives. Decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining therapy vary widely depending on culture, beliefs and organizational norms. The following review will describe the current understanding of the problem and give an overview over interventional studies.Recent findingsEOL care is a risk factor for clinician burnout; poor work conditions contribute to emotional exhaustion and intent to leave. The impact of EOL care on families is part of the acute Family Intensive Care Unit Syndrome (FICUS) and the Post Intensive Care Syndrome–Family (PICS-F). Family-centered care (FCC) acknowledges the importance of relatives in the ICU. Several interventions have been evaluated, but evidence for their effectiveness is at best moderate. Some interventions even increased family stress. Interventional studies, which address clinician burnout are rare.SummaryEOL care is associated with negative outcomes for ICU clinicians and relatives, but strength of evidence for interventions is weak because we lack understanding of associated factors like work conditions, organizational issues or individual attitudes. In order to develop complex interventions that can successfully mitigate stress related to EOL care, more research is necessary, which takes into account all potential determinants.

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