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How clinicians recognise people who are dying: An integrative review

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineReview articlepeer-review

Article number104666
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/03/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/12/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background: Timely recognition of dying is important for high quality end-of-life care however, little is known about how clinicians recognise dying. Late recognition is common and can lead to futile treatment that can prolong or increase suffering and prevent a change in the focus of care. Aim: To explore how clinicians caring for dying people recognise that they are in the last days or hours of life, as well as the factors that influence the recognition of dying. Design: A systematically constructed integrative review of the literature. Methods: Medline, Scopus, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, PsycInfo and Allied and Complementary Medicine were searched in July 2022. Papers were included if they were original research, discussed how clinicians recognise dying, available in English language and published in 2012 or later. A constant comparison approach was applied to the analysis and synthesis of the literature. Results: 24 papers met the inclusion criteria. There were 3 main categories identified: ‘Clues and signals’ refers to prompts and signs that lead a clinician to believe a person is dying, incorporating the sub-categories ‘knowing the patient over time’, and ‘intuition and experience’. ‘Recognition by others’ is where clinicians come to recognise someone is dying through others. This can be through a change in the context of care such as a tool or care plan or by communication with the team. ‘Culture, system and practice’ refers to the cultural beliefs of a setting that influences awareness of dying and denial of death as a possibility and avoidance of naming death and dying directly. System and practice of the setting also impact on recognition of dying. This involves work pace and intensity, shift systems and timing of senior reviews of patients. Uncertainty and its impact on recognition of dying are evident throughout the findings of this review. The seeking of certainty and the absence of the possibility of dying contributes to late recognition of dying. Discussion: Recognition of dying is a complex process that occurs over time, involving a combination of intuition and gathering of information, that is influenced by contextual factors. A culture where dying is not openly acknowledged or even named explicitly contributes to late recognition of dying. A shared language and consistent terminology for explicitly naming dying are needed. Uncertainty is intrinsic to the recognition of dying and therefore a shift to recognising the possibility of dying rather than seeking certainty is needed. Registration: (PROSPERO) CRD42022360900. Registered September 2022.