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Failed resuscitations leave marks on nurses

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Resuscitation attempts in critical care units are not unusual and, unfortunately, not always successful. Often, RNs are involved in these life-saving efforts.

"I was curious to know if there was any published literature on the emotional or psychological consequences on nurses specifically related to resuscitation attempts," says Dawn E. McMeekin, RN, DNP, CNE, advanced clinical education specialist at Baycare Health System in Dunedin, FL.

Published literature on the topic was limited, but McMeekin's recent study, published in the American Journal of Critical Care is shedding some light on the topic.

Its aim was "to explore if participation in an unsuccessful cardiopulmonary resuscitation attempt created a heightened level of stress, referred to as postcode stress, and if coping behaviors individuals utilized influenced the development of a more chronic psychological distress as evidenced by PTSD symptom severity or stress as a result of a traumatic event," McMeekin says.

Additionally, study participants were asked if institutional support in the form of debriefing was available. The relationship between debriefing and the levels of psychological distress was also assessed.

The results of the study were somewhat surprising.

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