BACKGROUND: Integrating palliative care into intensive care units (ICUs) requires involvement of bedside nurses, who report inadequate education in palliative care.
OBJECTIVE: To implement and evaluate a palliative care professional development program for ICU bedside nurses.
METHODS: From May 2013 to January 2015, palliative care advanced practice nurses and nurse educators in 5 academic medical centers completed a 3-day train-the-trainer program followed by 2 years of mentoring to implement the initiative. The program consisted of 8-hour communication workshops for bedside nurses and structured rounds in ICUs, where nurse leaders coached bedside nurses in identifying and addressing palliative care needs. Primary outcomes were nurses' ratings of their palliative care communication skills in surveys, and nurses' identification of palliative care needs during coaching rounds.
RESULTS: Each center held at least 6 workshops, training 428 bedside nurses. Nurses rated their skill level higher after the workshop for 15 tasks (eg, responding to family distress, ensuring families understand information in family meetings, all P < .01 vs preworkshop). Coaching rounds in each ICU took a mean of 3 hours per month. For 82% of 1110 patients discussed in rounds, bedside nurses identified palliative care needs and created plans to address them.
CONCLUSIONS: Communication skills training workshops increased nurses' ratings of their palliative care communication skills. Coaching rounds supported nurses in identifying and addressing palliative care needs.