Factors contributing to the process of intensive care patient discharge: An ethnographic study informed by activity theory
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Background: Patient flow from intensive care to acute care units is often problematic and many discharges from intensive care to acute care are unsuccessful on the first attempt. Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore the factors that influence intensive care patient discharge. Design, setting, and participants: This ethnographic study was undertaken in an Australian metropolitan tertiary hospital that had a 14-bed level 3 intensive care unit. Intensive care and acute care unit medical and nursing staff, and other hospital staff who were involved in the intensive care patient discharge process participated in this study. A total of 28 discharges were observed, and 56 one on one interviews were conducted. Methods: Data collection techniques including direct observations, semi-structured interviews, and collection of existing documents were used. Activity theory was the theoretical framework that underpinned this study. Findings: Three patient activity systems were identified: intensive care patient discharge activity, acute care unit accepting patient activity, and hospital bed management activity. Analysis of the interactions among these activity systems revealed conflicting objects (goals), communication breakdowns, and teamwork issues. Conclusion: Discharge delay was found to be a significant problem, which was associated with limited acute care unit bed availability. Strategies to improve acute care unit bed availability are needed. Routine after-hours ICU discharge could raise patient safety concerns which need to be considered. All team members' input in discharge decision making should be encouraged. Problems identified in clinical handover call for actions to change the handover practice. Activity theory successfully guided the study by providing a practical and descriptive framework for the study, facilitating the understanding of the interrelationships among the activity systems.
International Journal of Nursing Studies
© 2013 Elsevier. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Clinical Nursing: Secondary (Acute Care)