Health Services Research & Development

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Neufeld MY, Sarkar B, Wiener RS, Stevenson EK, Narsule CK. The effect of patient code status on surgical resident decision making: A national survey of general surgery residents. Surgery. 2019 Aug 16.
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Abstract: BACKGROUND: Multiple studies have demonstrated that, compared with their full code counterparts, patients with do-not-resuscitate or do-not-intubate status have higher in-hospital and postdischarge mortality than predicted by clinical characteristics alone. We sought to determine whether patient code status affects surgical resident decision making. METHODS: We created an online survey that consisted of 4 vignettes, followed by 10 questions regarding decisions on possible diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. All program directors of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited general surgery residencies were randomized to receive 1 of 2 survey versions that differed only in the code status of the patients described, with requests to distribute the survey to their residents. Responses to each question were based on a Likert scale. RESULTS: A total of 194 residents completed the survey, 51% of whom were women, and all years of surgical residency were represented. In all vignettes, patient code status influenced perioperative medical decisions, ranging from initiation of dialysis to intensive care unit transfer. In 2 vignettes, it affected decisions to proceed with indicated emergency operations. CONCLUSION: When presented with patient scenarios pertaining to clinical decision making, surgical residents tend to assume that patients with a do-not-resuscitate or do-not-intubate code status would prefer to receive less aggressive care overall. As a result, the delivery of appropriate surgical care may be improperly limited unless a patient''s goals of care are explicitly stated. It is important for surgical residents to understand that a do-not-resuscitate or do-not-intubate code status should not be interpreted as a "do-not-treat" status.