Nature of Conflict in the Care of Pediatric Intensive Care Patients with Prolonged Stay

Published in: Pediatrics, v. 112, no. 3, Sep. 2003, p. 553-558

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2002

by David M. Studdert, Jeffrey P Burns, Michelle M Mello, Ann Louise Puopolo, Robert D Truog, Troyen A Brennan

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OBJECTIVE: To determine the frequency, types, sources, and predictors of conflict surrounding the care of pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) patients with prolonged stay. SETTING: A tertiary care, university-affiliated PICU in Boston. PARTICIPANTS: All patients admitted over an 11-month period whose stay exceeded 8 days (the 85th percentile length of stay for the PICU under study), and intensive care physicians and nurses who were responsible for their care. METHODS: The authors prospectively identified conflicts by interviewing the treating physicians and nurses at 2 stages during the patients' PICU stay. All conflicts detected were classified by type (team-family, intrateam, or intrafamily) and source. Using a case-control design, we then identified predictors of conflict through bivariate and multivariate analyses. RESULTS: The authors enrolled 110 patients based on the length-of-stay criterion. Clinicians identified 55 conflicts involving 51 patients in this group. Hence, nearly one half of all patients followed had a conflict associated with their care. Thirty-three of the conflicts (60%) were team-family, 21 (38%) were intrateam, and the remaining 1 was intrafamily. The most commonly cited sources of team-family conflict were poor communication (48%), unavailability of parents (39%), and disagreements over the care plan (39%). Medicaid insurance status was independently associated with the occurrence of conflict generally (odds ratio = 4.97) and team-family conflict specifically (odds ratio = 7.83). CONCLUSIONS: Efforts to reduce and manage conflicts that arise in the care of critically ill children should be sensitive to the distinctive features of these conflicts. Knowledge of risk factors for conflict may also help to target such interventions at the patients and families who need them most.

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