Critical Care at the End of Life

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Intensive care unit (ICU) admission is common among patients approaching the end of their lives from acute as well as chronic life-limiting conditions. ICU providers are expected to have basic palliative care skills integrated into their routine practice. Palliative care skills can be applied to all ICU patients, regardless of prognosis, and may improve patient- and family-centered end of life (EOL) care in the ICU. Consultative palliative care models may be required for more complex palliative care needs including symptom management, medical decision making, and bereavement. This review discusses integrative and consultative palliative care models and the role of triggers for palliative care consultation, particularly when they are tailored to the needs of individual ICUs. We then review the evidence for providing several palliative care domains in the ICU and some of the ethical considerations surrounding EOL care in the ICU. Finally, we highlight the importance of self-care and peer support groups to mitigate the risk of burnout for clinicians providing EOL care in the ICU.

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