Introduction Caring for the dying is a multidisciplinary team (MDT) model of care, with nurses providing the most direct patient care. Providing end-of-life care to meet the person-centred needs of individuals and families is complex and relies on effective clinical decision-making (CDM) skills. Little is known about how healthcare professionals (HCPs) inform complex decisions for care intervention when the patient is unresponsive at end of life. The cognitive continuum theory (CCT) has been used to examine CDM in healthcare. This systematic review aimed to critically synthesis empirical links between theory, research, and practice to address the following questions: how has the CCT been used in research, and to what extent has it been integrated in research processes and clinical practice?
Methods A systematic review was undertaken searching five databases from inception. A range of key concepts were mapped to each electronic database. Pre-eligibility screening criteria were applied, and methodological quality appraisal was conducted. A meta-aggregative synthesis was conducted using Joanna Briggs methodology.
Findings Five synthesised findings related to the CDM processes were informed by the CCT. These included: CDM varied depending on the decision-making capacity of the individual HCP, their level of experience, availability of decision tools, access to senior staff and peers, and availability of resources such as time and staffing. The visibility of the CCT was variable, with only two studies rigorously applying the CCT to all stages of the research.
Discussion This review identified a gap in providing a person-centric approach to CDM. This finding was dependent on multifactorial considerations which impacted individual HCPs. Complex DM should be safely embedded in the MDT to sustain the team and improve patient care. Further education and support is needed, particularly in the context of the unresponsive dying. Impacts of time, resources and workplace culture on CDM need to be addressed.
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