To examine nurse-patient communication about preferences for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Prospective cohort. Sampled were patients and nurses caring for patients enrolled in SUPPORT (1989-91), a multicenter study of seriously-ill hospitalized adults at four U.S. hospitals.
Information about patient preferences was obtained by interviews with patients and their designated surrogates. For selected patients, nurses were interviewed prospectively about their understanding of patients' preferences and whether they discussed these preferences with their patients. Nurse demographic information was obtained by questionnaire. Additional patient data were obtained by interview and chart review. Logistic regression was used to identify independent correlates of nurse-patient communication and nurses' understanding of patients' preferences.
For 1,763 study patients, 1,427 nurse interviews (response rate 81%) were obtained. The median age of interviewed nurses was 29 years; 96% were women, 68% had a bachelor's or master's degree, and 62% had worked for 5 years or more as a nurse. Nurses reported discussions about CPR with 13% of their patients, and these discussions were more likely if the nurse thought the patient did not want CPR (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 2.68; 95% CI 1.84 to 3.90), if the nurse had spent more time with the patient (AOR 1.05; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.08) per 5 additional days, if the patient had metastatic cancer (AOR 3.56; 95% CI 1.86 to 6.78), or if the patient was in an intensive care unit at the time of study entry (AOR 2.08; 95% CI 1.26 to 3.42). Diagnosis and study site were also associated with nurses' reports of discussions with patients. Of 551 patients with available data, 58% (n = 317) wanted CPR and 30% (n = 164) did not. Nurses understood patients' CPR preferences correctly for 74% of the patients. Nurses were more likely to understand patients' preferences to forego CPR if the patient was 75 years of age or older (AOR 6.6; 95% CI 2.0 to 22.0) or if the nurse and patient had discussed the patient's preferences (AOR 25.3; 95% CI 6.5 to 98.6) or if the patient had cancer (AOR 10.9; 95% CI 2.3 to 50.1). Nurses' understanding of patients' preferences for CPR was no better than that of physicians or patients' surrogate decision-makers.
In this sample of seriously ill hospitalized adults, discussions between patients and nurses about CPR were infrequent. Nurses' understanding of patients' preferences for care was similar to that of physicians and patients' surrogate decision-makers. Educational interventions should focus on increasing the frequency of nurse-patient discussions about end-of-life care and improving nurses' understanding of patients' preferences for care.