The Decision-Making Process When Starting Terminal Care as Assessed by Nursing Staff
Nursing Ethics 2002 January; 9(1): 20-35
This article deals with making decisions about starting terminal care. The results are part of a larger survey on nurses' conceptions of terminal care in community health centres in Finland. The importance, frequency and timing of decision making as well as communication and the number of investigations and procedures carried out are examined. The relationship between decision making and the size of a health centre's catchment population is also discussed. The results make it possible to compare the current situation in Finland with the national law on patients' rights. The sample consisted of 328 nurses who worked on the wards of 32 community health centres. The data were collected by means of a structure questionnaire and processed with the Statistical Package for Social Sciences software. The nurses agreed that explicit decision making and documentation about starting terminal care were necessary, but it was highlighted that the practice had many shortcomings. Decisions were often made too late and the patients were not always aware of their situation; family members and the nursing staff were mostly better informed. It was noted that many investigations and other procedures were carried out on terminally ill patients, often at the request of family members. Decision making was found to have some relationship to the size of a health centre's catchment area.
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