Do-not-attempt-resuscitation (DNAR) orders: understanding and interpretation of their use in the hospitalised patient in Ireland. A brief report

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Abstract

Following the introduction of do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders in the 1970s, there was widespread misinterpretation of the term among healthcare professionals. In this brief report, we present findings from a survey of healthcare professionals. Our aim was to examine current understanding of the term do-not-attempt-resuscitate (DNAR), decision-making surrounding DNAR and awareness of current guidelines. The survey was distributed to doctors and nurses in a university teaching hospital and affiliated primary care physicians in Dublin via email and by hard copy at educational meetings from July to December 2014. A total of 519 completed the survey. The response rate in the hospital doctors group was 35.5% (187/527), 19.8% (292/1477) in the nurses group but 68.8% (150/218) in the specialist nurses group and 40% (40/100) in the primary care physician group.

Alarmingly, our results demonstrate that 26.8% of staff nurses and 30% of primary care physicians surveyed believed that a patient with a DNAR order could not receive any/at least one of a list of simple treatments including antibiotics, physiotherapy, intravenous fluids, pain relief, oxygen, nasogastric feeding or airway suctioning, which were higher percentages compared to the other hospital doctors and experienced nurses groups with statistically significant differences (p<0.001). Furthermore, a higher percentage of staff nurses (26.8%) and primary care physicians (22.5%) believed that a patient with a DNAR order could not be referred to hospital from home/a nursing home, when compared with other healthcare groups (p<0.001). Our findings highlight continued misunderstanding and over-interpretation of DNAR orders. Further collaboration and information is required for meaningful Advance Care Plans.

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