Understanding nurses' decision-making when managing weaning from mechanical ventilation: A study of novice and experienced critical care nurses in Scotland and Greece

Kalliopi Kydonaki, Guro Huby, Jennifer Tocher, Leanne M Aitken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Aim and objectives
To examine how nurses collect and use cues from respiratory assessment to inform their decisions as they wean patients from ventilatory support.
Prompt and accurate identification of the patient's ability to sustain reduction of ventilatory support has the potential to increase the likelihood of successful weaning. Nurses' information processing during the weaning from mechanical ventilation has not been well-described.
A descriptive ethnographic study exploring critical care nurses' decision-making processes when weaning mechanically ventilated patients from ventilatory support in the real setting.
Novice and expert Scottish and Greek nurses from two tertiary intensive care units were observed in real practice of weaning mechanical ventilation and were invited to participate in reflective interviews near the end of their shift. Data were analysed thematically using concept maps based on information processing theory. Ethics approval and informed consent were obtained.
Scottish and Greek critical care nurses acquired patient-centred objective physiological and subjective information from respiratory assessment and previous knowledge of the patient, which they clustered around seven concepts descriptive of the patient's ability to wean. Less experienced nurses required more encounters of cues to attain the concepts with certainty. Subjective criteria were intuitively derived from previous knowledge of patients' responses to changes of ventilatory support. All nurses used focusing decision-making strategies to select and group cues in order to categorise information with certainty and reduce the mental strain of the decision task.
Nurses used patient-centred information to make a judgment about the patients' ability to wean. Decision-making strategies that involve categorisation of patient-centred information can be taught in bespoke educational programmes for mechanical ventilation and weaning.
Relevance to clinical practice
Advanced clinical reasoning skills and accurate detection of cues in respiratory assessment by critical care nurses will ensure optimum patient management in weaning mechanical ventilation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434–444
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number25
Early online date28 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cognitive process
  • critical care nurses
  • decision making
  • mechanical ventilation
  • observation
  • weaning


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