Provider Perspectives Regarding Resuscitation Decisions for Neonates and Other Vulnerable Patients

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Abstract

Objectives

To use structured surveys to assess the perspectives of pediatric residents and neonatal nurses on resuscitation decisions for vulnerable patients, including neonates.

Study design

Pediatric providers were surveyed using scenarios for 6 critically ill patients of different ages with outcomes explicitly described. Providers were asked (1) whether resuscitation was in each patient's best interest; (2) whether they would accept families' wishes for comfort care (no resuscitation); and (3) to rank patients in order of priority for resuscitation. In a structured interview, each participant explained how they evaluated patient interests and when applicable, why their answers differed for neonates. Interviews were audiotaped; transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis and mixed methods.

Results

Eighty pediatric residents and neonatal nurses participated (response rate 74%). When making life and death decisions, participants considered (1) patient characteristics (96%), (2) personal experience/biases (85%), (3) family's wishes and desires (81%), (4) disease characteristics (74%), and (5) societal perspectives (36%). These factors were not in favor of sick neonates: of the participants, 85% reported having negative biases toward neonates and 60% did not read, misinterpreted, and/or distrusted neonatal outcome statistics. Additional factors used to justify comfort care for neonates included limited personhood and lack of relationships/attachment (73%); prioritization of family's best interest, and social acceptability of death (36%). When these preconceptions were discussed, 70% of respondents reported they would change their answers in favor of neonates.

Conclusions

Resuscitation decisions for neonates are based on many factors, such as considerations of personhood and family's interests (that are not traditional indicators of benefit), which may explain why decision making is different for the neonatal population.

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