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Keywords:

  • diagnosing dying;
  • guidelines;
  • Liverpool Care Pathway;
  • protocols

Dee J.F. & Endacott R. (2011) Journal of Nursing Management19, 186–192 Doing the right thing at the right time

Objective  To identify factors that clinicians consider when a patient is dying, enabling implementation of the Liverpool Care Pathway.

Background  In order to improve the care of the dying patient and their families it is helpful to implement the Liverpool Care Pathway for the dying. It therefore is necessary to identify the dying patient in a timely fashion.

Method  A phenomenological study using semi-structured interviews (n = five nurses and five doctors) conducted on a hospice inpatient unit.

Findings  There was a prominent theme of anxiety about getting the timing of diagnosing dying right, with an emphasis how the dying patient and their families would cope if this were wrong. The main factors identified were: support for decision making, understanding the patient’s journey and concern that the care given is appropriate.

Conclusions and implications for nursing practice  All clinicians interviewed for this study had concerns about increasing the patient’s/carers’ distress if the Liverpool Care Pathway implementation was mistimed. There is a risk that clinicians are avoiding difficult conversations with families and there may be a lack of understanding around the reasons for use of the Liverpool Care Pathway. Specific communications training may help clinicians in this role.