Do-not-resuscitate decisions in the medical ICU; Comparing physician and nurse opinions

Arn H. Eliasson, Robin S. Howard, Kenneth G. Torrington, Thomas A. Dillard, Yancy Y. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Study objective: To determine how soon after admission to a medical ICU physicians and nurses decide that attempts at resuscitation are inappropriate and how frequently physicians and nurses disagree about do-not-resuscitate (DNR) decisions. Design: Prospective, opinion survey of care providers. Setting: Ten-bed adult medical ICU in a university-affiliated tertiary care referral hospital. Patients: Consecutive adult medical ICU admissions. Interventions: Over 10 months, physicians and nurses were surveyed independently every day regarding their opinions about DNR issues on each patient in the ICU. Measurements: ICU day when DNR order was deemed appropriate by either physicians or nurses. Results: Of 368 consecutive admissions, 84 (23%) patients were designated DNR during their ICU stay. In 6 of these 84 cases (7%), the responsible nurse did not agree that DNR orders were appropriate. In the remaining 78 patients designated DNR, the median time for physicians to recommend DNR (median, 1 day; range, 0 to 22 days) was not significantly different from the median time for nurses (median, 1 day; range, 0 to 13 days); (p=0.45). For the 284 patients not designated DNR, physicians and nurses both believed DNR was appropriate in 14 cases (5%), but a DNR order was not written five times (2%) because there was not time to do so and nine times (3%) because patient or family did not concur. Physicians and nurses disagreed about a DNR recommendation in 33 of the 284 patients not designated DNR (12%). Physicians were more likely to believe that DNR was appropriate than were nurses (p<0.0005), with physicians alone recommending DNR 29 times (10%) and nurses alone favoring DNR in four cases (1%). Conclusions: At our institution, recognition of DNR appropriateness by nurses and physicians occurs over a similar time frame. However, physicians are more likely to recommend DNR in cases of disagreement between nurses and physicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1106-1111
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


  • do-not-resuscitate orders
  • ethics
  • nurse opinions
  • physician opinions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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