The following is the summary of “Lived Experience of Respiratory Therapists During Withdrawal of Advanced Life-Sustaining Therapies at End of Life in the ICU” published in the December 2022 issue of Respiratory Care by Cullum, et al.

All throughout the world, hospitals remove advanced life-supporting medicines, most commonly mechanical ventilation, from their patients. For optimal patient care, it’s important for nurses, providers (such as (physicians, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants), and respiratory therapists (RTs) to work together. Not much is known about RTs’ actual experiences with this method. In this work, researchers used a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to inquire into the subjective realities of RTs who assisted in the withdrawal of advanced life-sustaining medicines.  Recording and transcribing in-depth, one-on-one interviews with veteran RTs. Triangulation of data from the analyses of 4 medical experts was performed.

The study’s findings identified 3 overarching themes: the influence of power dynamics in the context of the process, the requirement of resources to ensure the provision of quality withdrawal of advanced life-sustaining therapies, and the importance of emotional involvement and exposure. In addition, the investigation results showed that RTs want to learn more about their field, have a voice in important decisions, and be recognized for their emotional work.

Overall, the process for the healthcare team, the patient, and the family can only benefit from a better understanding of the function of RT in the withdrawal of advanced life-sustaining medications, and this study has done just that.