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Title: Referring in critical care : nurses as dual agents
Author: Trapani, Josef
ISNI:       0000 0004 5361 8162
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2014
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Previous research has suggested that critical care nurses' close and prolonged contact with patients places them in a unique position of improving patient outcomes and reducing the demand on critical care beds by detecting subtle signs of deterioration in a timely manner and identifying patient progression and readiness for less intensive care. Nonetheless, nurses rarely take decisions about patients' treatment modalities on their own, and constantly need to seek advice or authorisation. Indeed, several studies suggested that one of the most frequent decisions taken by nurses during clinical practice is that of referring to medical, nursing or other health care practitioners. However, there is very Iim ited research around the factors related to, and the actual process of, such referring. In view of this gap in the literature, the purpose of this study was to explore and explain the process of referring in the context of an intensive care unit by means of a substantive theory derived from the data. The principal research question was: What are the factors associated with critical care nurses' decisions to seek help from medical practitioners? The study took place in a general intensive care unit in a state hospital in a Mediterranean island nation. Data generation and analysis took place concurrently and iteratively, and were guided by the dimensional analysis approach to grounded theory. Data collection involved : (1) twenty hours of preliminary non participant observation; (2) fifty hours of participant observation and informal interviewing; (3) fifteen hours of formal semi-structured interviews with ten critical care nurses working in this unit selected by means of purposive and theoretical sampling; (4) two 2-hour focus group sessions aimed at enhancing theoretical sufficiency and verification of the emerging substantive theory. The analytical process was characterised by a series of inductive-deductive cycles, during which increasingly conceptual labels were attached to data segments. Working hypotheses and theoretical memos were used to interrogate the data and look for positive and negative evidence for the inductively derived labels. The findings suggest that nurses' decisions to seek help from doctors are complex and frequently mediated by individual or organisational factors which are unrelated to the actual clinical situation, such as experience, asse11iveness and willingness to take risk. They involve nurses weighing up several occasionally conflicting motivators, including a desire to act with some degree of independence; attempting to prevent personal and professional risk; and being constantly mindful of their asymmetrical decision making power relative to doctors. A central consideration is that of balancing their moral obligation to safeguard critically ill patients' interests with their duty to respect medical practitioners' preferences. Subsequently, nurses find themselves in a position of dual agency as they need to concurrently act as an agent to two different principals, namely the medical practitioner and the patient, a situation which is potentially morally distressing. The emergent substantive theory underscores the significance of the nurse's role in acting on behalf of the patient in a scenario of significant patient vulnerability; the factors that enhance, mediate and potentially suppress this advocacy role; and the interrelatedness of nurses' relationship with doctors and their effectiveness in safeguarding critically ill patients' interests. Subsequently, the study should provide valuable insight into the type of leadership and education that is required to assist nurses in placing patients' interest at the forefront of their actions and interactions, while fostering collaboration within multidisciplinary teams.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B000 Health Professions