Deakin study to examine doctor-nurse communication

2 April 2009

Complex decisions about the sedation of critically-ill patients at a Melbourne hospital will be videotaped as part of an innovative study led by Deakin University health researchers.

Discussions between doctors and nurses about the sedation of up to 150 patients in induced comas are being videotaped as part of the study.

Professor Tracey Bucknall, of Deakin’s School of Nursing, said the research would reveal how decisions were made about sedation, and would lead to strategies to improve sedation management.

Professor Bucknall said poorly-managed sedation could pose substantial risks to patients as the longer a patient was sedated on a ventilator, the greater the risk of developing medical complications such as pneumonia or muscle wastage.

“Achieving the optimal balance between giving just enough sedation to administer the patient treatments and not too much to prolong illness and hospital length of stay requires complex interdisciplinary decision making,” she said.

“Doctors, nurses and pharmacists all participate in management decisions about sedation therapy, but just how those decisions are made is unknown.

“In understanding the influences on these decisions at the ward round and during the shift, we can develop strategies for clinicians to enhance communication, minimise sedation therapy to facilitate patient recovery, and prevent adverse complications in intensive care.”

Chief investigator, Dr Judy Currey, from Deakin University and a critical care nurse, said it would be the first time videotaping had been used to study such decisions.

“We will be videotaping clinicians consulting on patients’ plan of care, the decision-making and documentation at the ward round, and the implementation of sedation management for the shift,” she said.

The study, which has been funded by the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses through a grant by Hospira, will involve researchers from Deakin, Melbourne and Monash universities.

News facts
  • Research to reveal how decisions are made about sedation of critically-ill patients
  • Poorly-managed sedation could put patients at risk
  • Results to inform strategies for enhanced communication

Media contact
Mandi O'Garretty
Deakin Media Relations
03 5227 2776, 0418 361 890

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2nd April 2009