Objectives: In the context of serious or life-limiting illness, pediatric patients and their families are faced with difficult decisions surrounding appropriate resuscitation efforts in the event of a cardiopulmonary arrest. Code status orders are one way to inform end-of-life medical decision making. The objectives of this study are to evaluate the extent to which pediatric providers have knowledge of code status options and explore the association of provider role with (1) knowledge of code status options, (2) perception of timing of code status discussions, (3) perception of family receptivity to code status discussions, and (4) comfort carrying out code status discussions. Design: Nurses, trainees (residents and fellows), and attending physicians from pediatric units where code status discussions typically occur completed a short survey questionnaire regarding their knowledge of code status options and perceptions surrounding code status discussions. Setting: Single center, quaternary care children’s hospital. Measurements and main results: 203 nurses, 31 trainees, and 29 attending physicians in 4 high-acuity pediatric units responded to the survey (N = 263, 90% response rate). Based on an objective knowledge measure, providers demonstrate poor understanding of available code status options, with only 22% of providers able to enumerate more than two of four available code status options. In contrast, provider groups self-report high levels of familiarity with available code status options, with attending physicians reporting significantly higher levels than nurses and trainees (p = 0.0125). Nurses and attending physicians show significantly different perception of code status discussion timing, with majority of nurses (63.4%) perceiving discussions as occurring “too late” or “much too late” and majority of attending physicians (55.6%) perceiving the timing as “about right” (p<0.0001). Attending physicians report significantly higher comfort having code status discussions with families than do nurses or trainees (p0.0001). Attending physicians and trainees perceive families as more receptive to code status discussions than nurses (p<0.0001 and p = 0.0018, respectively). Conclusions: Providers have poor understanding of code status options and differ significantly in their comfort having code status discussions and their perceptions of these discussions. These findings may reflect inherent differences among providers, but may also reflect discordant visions of appropriate care and function as a potential source of moral distress. Lack of knowledge of code status options and differences in provider perceptions are likely barriers to quality communication surrounding end-of-life options.
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© 2017 Kruse et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.