DNR versus AND

  1. 5
    We all know that DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate, but the move in my children's hospital is to try to switch our terms from DNR to AND, which means Allowing Natural Death. The verbiage is very important because when parents here the words "Do Not" they automatically think that they are not doing something that they should be. Not doing everything they can.

    Instead, our Pediatric Palliative Care team wants to change the culture and thinking of both the staff and the families. Allowing natural death means changing the goals of our treatment from cure to comfort. It means that we are doing everything we can to make their child as pain and symptom free as possible.

    We have an excellent palliative care MD and the nurses in my PICU always try to get her involved when we are discussing end of life issues with family. She is thoughtful and considerate but honest and informative. Unfortunately, her bedside manner is not shared by all our MD's and we still continue to have situations where parents end up scared, offended, and distraught due to the less-than-sensitive discussions about end of life, and I'm afraid that some of our patients end up suffering more because of the way this is presented.

    How are end of life discussions handled on your floors? What language to you use to explain the options to the families? Are their certain doctors who are called in to help with these discussions? What sort of education exists for nurses/physicians regarding palliative care?
    aknottedyarn, VickyRN, Esme12, and 2 others like this.
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  3. 18 Comments so far...

  4. 4
    We're in the process of changing our language from DNR to Goals of Care... similar to your AND. On our unit these conversations are handled poorly by some of our (11) intensivists and very well by some others. It's not so much the sensitivity as it is the offering of ridiculously escalating futile care (wecanstilldothisandthisandthisandthis), the recommending that we give the child "just a little more time" to declare themselves or the implicit expectation that parents will "make the decision" to end their child's natural life instead of being presented with the medical facts and told that there is nothing more that can be done that will produce the desired outcome so it's time to stop now. When it is presented in that way, there's really only one of our docs who will do it - most of them will back down if the family says they're not ready. (When are they EVER going to be ready???) Needless suffering? In spades.

    We have a peds palliative care team and the doc is very compassionate, while also being realistic. Education about palliative care is sparse. There is nothing in our unit orientation about it, just a little blurb about moral distress. We have a system-wide computer module on Goals of Care that has been incorporated into our BLS and hospital-based competency recertification, but it only takes about 15 minutes to read through and so far it hasn't been introduced in the real world.
    brian, aknottedyarn, VickyRN, and 1 other like this.
  5. 2
    I love the idea of 'AND'. It sounds much better, has a positive feeling. I have been fortunate in that neither of my parents suffered a prolonged dying experience, nor did most of my other family members.

    I applaud the efforts of the health care team who can courageously discuss this sad topic with grieving family members.
    brian and aknottedyarn like this.
  6. 6
    Okay, I may sound dumb here, but it hasn't stopped me before so...

    Am I understanding that these two terms are to be used synonymously?

    Because I see a large difference in the two.

    To me, DNR, in its plainest terms, indicates that no efforts to resuscitate will be made in the event of cardiac and/or respiratory arrest, but that all interventions will be performed up to that time.

    AND, as I see it, means that no interventions at all will be performed, unless they provide comfort vs. medical necessity, (allowing nature to take its course, so to speak.)

    I believe both are fine, of course, but I can see a problem if the terms are used interchangeably. At my facility, we don't use AND, we use the term "comfort care," but do not ever use it in place of DNR.
    That Guy, brian, aknottedyarn, and 3 others like this.
  7. 2
    I agree with DeLana. I think using "AND" is a great thought, but it has to be specifically stated exactly what it will entail. If it is just another term for "DNR," then great. I agree that the language is such that it could make these grieving parents feel less guilt over their decision. However if it is more of a "CMO (comfort measures only)" term, then that needs to be spelled out as well, and the distinction made between the two.
    brian and DeLanaHarvickWannabe like this.
  8. 1
    Like many things...when associated with death, people are uncomfortable with the subject of dying. The are times I miss the old days when the doc would write in the chart....."Slow Code" or "Code not indicated" and we would rush to the room and close the door while we "coded their love one".

    Using terms like DNR...which is universally known (even if the ultimate "treatment" meaning varies), and changing it to vary again between facility to facility may cause more confusion than is necessary. I think a better education of healthcare professionals on the meaning of DNR.......that it doesn't mean Do NOT Treat. A special team that is consulted to help the family Dela with the comfort and loss of their loved one. I have found it is the individuals relationship with death that affects the interpretation what DNR means that the term itself.

    A re-clarification that DNR does not mean Do not Treat. It means if while you are treating them aggressively they code.....you don't perform CPR and call a code. "Comfort care" means make them comfortable. Many families need the comfort that even if they are going to "allow their loved one to die and let nature take it's course".......is the loving thing to do. Having a patient die isn't a failure.

    I remember once and oncologist stood at the bedside of a seizing 24yo in status insisting it was hypoxia that was causing the Status epilepticus and has nothing what so ever to do with the Grade 4 astrocytoma....stuns me to this very day. This Doc used to the family the "proof" that this was true because when the breathing tube was placed the Seizing stopped......had NOTHING to do with the paralytics used to stop/paralyze the muscles so we could give an airway.

    It isn't so much the vocabulary used....it's the education of the personnel using it. I like the term "Goals of Care" where the "terms" comfort care, DNR/DNI, hospice and palliative care will be used by the "team" as a part of the systems in place to care for their loved one in end of life issues.

    Great post Ashley!!!
    Artistyc1 likes this.
  9. 0
    Love this idea. LOVE it. We just got a new ethics person and a palliative care group just got started, so I'm really hopeful that a lot of the things that have been burning me to a crisp (i.e. parents forcing us to torture their child who has absolutely no quality of life) will slowly change for the better.
  10. 1
    I work on the other end of the age spectrum, but no matter what age the patient is, end of life care is not easy for most people to discuss.We have an Advanced Directives form that spells out what the person wishes or does not wish to have done: Do Not Rescusitate, Do Not Intubate, No Feeding Tubes, No Artificial Hydration, Do Not Hospitalize with room at the bottom for other choices.As long as there has been a discussion with the patient before the need arises, it works well. What I think is the most distressing is the case in which the resident has made his needs known, has a significant decline, health care proxy is invoked, and the health care proxy decides to "do everything possible" to keep the patient alive.
    Miss Molly likes this.
  11. 2
    I really like the idea, but I think the real problem is communication. I work on an oncolgy floor, and some of our oncologists will not talk about hospice or comfort care untill the pt is in the throws of death. Hospice is such a wonderful service, but it is nearly useless whe someone is mere hours from death. Physicians do not want to talk about end of life issues. I have been put in a position too many times of having to have this discussion with the family about their loved one who is just about to die, trying to figure out do I need to send them to ICU or not. All because their doctor would not talk to the family.

    What we really need is a better dialogue with patients and families.
    Miss Molly and DroogieRN like this.
  12. 0
    I think that AND and DNR should both be options, in every facility.
    AND would mean comfort care and allowing death, and DNR would just mean what it always means, just don't recussetate.
    I think having both choices could benifit patients, help make sure their wishes are honored and that they recieve the kind of care they really need.


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