Co-ordination of the discharge planning process in critical care


  • Rosemary Watts PhD, RN,

  • Jane Pierson PhD,

  • Heather Gardner BA (Hons), MA

Rosemary Watts
Research Fellow
Epworth Hospital/Deakin Nursing Research Centre
Epworth Foundation
89 Bridge Road
Richmond, Vic. 3121
Telephone: 61 3 92466666


Aim and objectives.  This article reports on the current discharge planning beliefs in relation to the co-ordination of the discharge planning process in the critical care environment in the health care system in the state of Victoria, Australia. As there is a paucity of previous studies examining discharge planning in critical care nursing knowledge about the phenomena is consequently limited.

Background.  The study reported here is part of a larger study exploring critical care nurses’ perceptions and understanding of the discharge planning process in the health care system in the state of Victoria, Australia. While a number of different discharge planning models are reported in the literature there is no agreement on the most effective or the most efficient model.

Design.  An exploratory descriptive research design was used for this study.

Methods.  A total of 502 Victorian critical care nurses were approached to take part in the study. A total of 218 participants completed the survey, which represented a nett response rate of 43·4%. The data from the questionnaire were entered into the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) Base 10.0. This allowed calculation of descriptive statistics and statistical analysis using chi-square test for goodness-of-fit.

Results.  While just over half the participants reported that the discharge planning process in their unit was co-ordinated by a combination of personnel that included a nurse, just under half the participants believed that this was an appropriate model. Another key finding was of those participants who worked in critical care units using primary nursing, just over half responded that the bedside nurse/primary nurse co-ordinated the discharge planning process while just under half responded that a combination of health care team members, including a nurse, co-ordinated the process. Overall there was little support for the designated discharge planning nurse to co-ordinate the process.

Conclusions.  The findings presented here suggest critical care nurses need to examine who has the ultimate responsibility of co-ordinating the critical care patient's discharge plan irrespective of the nursing model employed within the critical care ward. There is the need to ensure that when discharge planning becomes everybody's responsibility it ultimately does not become no-one's responsibility.

Relevance to clinical practice.  If discharge planning practices are to be changed with the introduction of new discharge planning models in the critical care environment then it is important not only to know current practice but also the perceptions of critical care nurses in terms of who they believe should co-ordinate the discharge planning process.