BACKGROUND: The 3 Wishes Project (3WP) is an end-of-life program that honors the dignity of dying patients by fostering meaningful connections among patients, families, and clinicians. Since 2013, it has become embedded in the culture of end-of-life care in over 20 ICUs across North America. The purpose of the current study is to describe the variation in implementation of 3WP across sites, in order to ascertain which factors facilitated multicenter implementation, which factors remain consistent across sites, and which may be adapted to suit local needs.
METHODS: Using the methodology of qualitative description, we collected interview and focus group data from 85 clinicians who participated in the successful initiation and sustainment of 3WP in 9 ICUs. We describe the transition between different models of 3WP implementation, from core clinical program to the incorporation of various research activities. We describe various sources of financial and in-kind resources accessed to support the program.
RESULTS: Beyond sharing a common goal of improving end-of-life care, sites varied considerably in organizational context, staff complement, and resources. Despite these differences, the program was successfully implemented at each site and eventually evolved from a clinical or research intervention to a general approach to end-of-life care. Key to this success was flexibility and the empowerment of frontline staff to tailor the program to address identified needs with available resources. This adaptability was fueled by cross-pollination of ideas within and outside of each site, resulting in the establishment of a network of like-minded individuals with a shared purpose.
CONCLUSIONS: The successful initiation and sustainment of 3WP relied on local adaptations to suit organizational needs and resources. The semi-structured nature of the program facilitated these adaptations, encouraged creative and important ways of relating within local clinical cultures, and reinforced the main tenet of the program: meaningful human connection at the end of life. Local adaptations also encouraged a team approach to care, supplementing the typical patient-clinician dyad by explicitly empowering the healthcare team to collectively recognize and respond to the needs of dying patients, families, and each other.
Context: Keepsakes are a relatively unexplored form of bereavement support that is frequently provided as part of the 3 Wishes Project (3WP). The 3WP is a palliative care intervention in which individualized wishes are implemented in the adult intensive care unit for dying patients and their families.
Objectives: We aimed to characterize and enumerate the keepsakes that were created as part of the 3WP, and to understand their value from the perspective of bereaved family members.
Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of family interviews during a multi-center study on the 3WP and characterized all wishes that involved keepsakes. Sixty interviews with family members regarding the 3WP were re-analyzed using qualitative analysis to identify substantive themes related to keepsakes.
Results: Of 730 patients, 345 (47%) received keepsakes as part of their participation in 3WP. The majority of keepsakes were either tangible items that served as reminders of the patient’s presence (thumbprints, locks of hair) or technology-assisted items (photographs, word clouds). The median cost per keepsake wish was $8.50 (IQR $2.00-$25.00). Qualitative analysis revealed two major themes: 1) Keepsakes are tangible items that are highly valued by family members, and 2) The creation of the keepsake with clinical staff is valued and viewed as a gesture of compassion.
Conclusion: Keepsakes are common wishes that clinicians in the ICU are able to provide and sometimes co-create with families when patients are dying. Both the offering to create the keepsake and receipt of the final product are perceived by family members as helpful.