BACKGROUND: A recent randomized trial of bereaved family members of patients who died in an intensive care unit identified symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress in recipients of semistructured condolence letters.
OBJECTIVES: To explore family member and clinician experiences with receiving or sending handwritten sympathy cards upon the death of patients involved in a personalized end-of-life intervention, the 3 Wishes Project.
METHODS: Interviews and focus groups were held with 171 family members and 222 clinicians at 4 centers to discuss their experiences with the 3 Wishes Project. Interview transcripts were searched to identify participants who discussed sympathy cards. Data related to sympathy cards were independently coded by 2 investigators through conventional content analysis.
RESULTS: Sympathy cards were discussed during 32 interviews (by 25 family members of 21 patients and by 11 clinicians) and 2 focus groups (8 other clinicians). Family members reported that personalized sympathy cards were a welcome surprise; they experienced them as a heartfelt act of compassion. Clinicians viewed cards as an opportunity to express shared humanity with families, reminding them that they and their loved one were not forgotten. Signing cards allowed clinicians to reminisce individually and collectively with colleagues. Family members and clinicians experienced sympathy cards as a meaningful continuation of care after a patient's death.
CONCLUSIONS: Inviting clinicians who cared for deceased patients to offer personalized, handwritten condolences to bereaved family members may cultivate sincere and individualized expressions of sympathy that bereaved families appreciate after the death of patients involved in the 3 Wishes Project.
PURPOSE: The 3 Wishes Project (3WP) promotes holistic end-of-life care in the intensive care unit (ICU) to honor dying patients, support families, and encourage clinician compassion. Organ donation is a wish that is sometimes made by, or on behalf of, critically ill patients. Our objective was to describe the interface between the 3WP and organ donation as experienced by families, clinicians, and organ donation coordinators.
METHODS: In a multicenter evaluation of the 3WP in 4 Canadian ICUs, we conducted a thematic analysis of transcripts from interviews and focus groups with clinicians, organ donation coordinators, and families of dying or died patients for whom donation was considered.
RESULTS: We analyzed transcripts from 26 interviews and 2 focus groups with 18 family members, 17 clinicians, and 6 organ donation coordinators. The central theme describes the mutual goals of the 3WP and organ donation-emphasizing personhood and agency across the temporal continuum of care. During family decision-making, conversations encouraged by the 3WP can facilitate preliminary discussions about donation. During preparation for donation, memory-making activities supported by the 3WP redirect focus toward personhood. During postmortem family care, the 3WP supports families, including when donation is unsuccessful, and highlights aspirational pursuits of donation while encouraging reflections on other fulfilled wishes.
CONCLUSIONS: Organ donation and the 3WP provide complementary opportunities to engage in value-based conversations during the dying process. The shared values of these programs may help to incorporate organ donation and death into a person's life narrative and incorporate new life into a person's death narrative.
Background: The 3 Wishes Project (3WP) is an end-of-life program that aims to honor the dignity of dying patients by creating meaningful patient- and family-centered memories while promoting humanistic interprofessional care.
Objective: To determine whether this palliative intervention could be successfully implemented-defined as demonstrating value, transferability, affordability, and sustainability-beyond the intensive care unit in which it was created.
Design: Mixed-methods formative program evaluation. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04147169).
Setting: 4 North American intensive care units.
Participants: Dying patients, their families, clinicians, hospital managers, and administrators.
Intervention: Wishes from dying patients, family members, and clinicians were elicited and implemented.
Measurements: Patient characteristics and processes of care; the number, type, and cost of each wish; and semistructured interviews and focus groups with family members, clinicians, and managers.
Results: A total of 730 patients were enrolled, and 3407 wishes were elicited. Qualitative data were gathered from 75 family members, 72 clinicians, and 20 managers or hospital administrators. Value included intentional comforting of families as they honored the lives and legacies of their loved ones while inspiring compassionate clinical care. Factors promoting transferability included family appreciation and a collaborative intensive care unit culture committed to dignity-conserving end-of-life care. Staff participation evolved from passive support to professional agency. Program initiation required minimal investment for reusable materials; thereafter, the mean cost was $5.19 (SD, $17.14) per wish. Sustainability was demonstrated by the continuation of 3WP at each site after study completion.
Limitation: This descriptive formative evaluation describes tertiary care center-specific experiences rather than aiming for generalizability to all jurisdictions.
Conclusion: The 3WP is a transferrable, affordable, and sustainable program that provides value to dying patients, their families, clinicians, and institutions.
Primary Funding Source: Greenwall Foundation.
Background: End-of-life (EOL) care is an important aspect of practice in the intensive care unit (ICU), where approximately one of every five patients may die.
Objective: The objective of this study was to describe clinicians' experiences with the 3 Wishes Project (3WP) and understand the influence of the project on care in the ICU.
Design: The 3WP is a palliative care intervention in which clinicians elicit and implement final wishes for patients dying in the ICU; it had been implemented for seven months at the time of this study. This mixed-methods study includes quantitative data from clinician surveys and qualitative data from clinician focus groups.
Setting: A 24-bed medical ICU in a tertiary academic center.
Subjects: Perspectives of 97 clinicians working in the ICU during the study period were obtained by self-administered surveys. Five focus groups with 25 nurses and 5 physicians were held, digitally recorded, transcribed, and analyzed.
Measurements and Results: During the 7-month period, 67 decedents and their families participated in the 3WP. The overarching concept identified through analysis of the survey and focus group data is that the 3WP improves EOL care in the ICU, which was supported by three main themes: (1) The 3WP facilitates meaningful EOL care; (2) The 3WP has a positive impact on nurses and physicians; and (3) clinicians observe a positive influence of the 3WP on families.
Conclusions: This patient-centered and family-partnered intervention facilitates meaningful EOL care, favorably impacting the ICU team and positively influencing family members.
OBJECTIVES: To develop and validate a values clarification tool, the Short Graphic Values History Tool (GVHT), designed to support person-centred decision making during serious illness.
METHODS: The development phase included input from experts and laypersons and assessed acceptability with patients/family members. In the validation phase, we recruited additional participants into a before-after study. Our primary validation hypothesis was that the tool would reduce scores on the Decisional Conflict Scale (DCS) at 1-2 weeks of follow-up. Our secondary validation hypotheses were that the tool would improve values clarity (reduce scores) more than other DCS subscales and increase engagement in advance care planning (ACP) processes related to identification and discussion of one's values.
RESULTS: In the development phase, the tool received positive overall ratings from 22 patients/family members in hospital (mean score 4.3; 1=very poor; 5=very good) and family practice (mean score 4.5) settings. In the validation phase, we enrolled 157 patients (mean age 71.8 years) from family practice, cancer clinic and hospital settings. After tool completion, decisional conflict decreased (-6.7 points, 95% CI -11.1 to -2.3, p=0.003; 0–100 scale; N=100), with the most improvement seen in the values clarity subscale (-10.0 points, 95% CI -17.3 to -2.7, p=0.008; N=100), and the ACP-Values process score increased (+0.4 points, 95% CI 0.2 to 0.6, p=0.001; 1–5 scale; N=61).
CONCLUSIONS: The Short GVHT is acceptable to end users and has some measure of validity. Further study to evaluate its impact on decision making during serious illness is warranted.