How care decisions are made among interdisciplinary providers caring for critically injured patients: A qualitative study

Published:December 13, 2019DOI:



      Injury is the leading cause of death in people under 45 years of age in the United States; however, how care decisions occur in critical injury is poorly understood. This exploratory study sought to generate hypotheses about how care decisions are made among interdisciplinary providers caring for patients who have been critically injured.


      This was a qualitative study conducted at two intensive care units in a level 1 trauma center in an urban, teaching, safety-net hospital. Semistructured interviews consisted of case scenarios with competing clinical priorities presented to 25 interdisciplinary providers, elucidating how decisions are approached. Responses were recorded, transcribed, and coded. Thematic analysis was conducted to discover central themes. Category formulation and sorting was done for data reduction and thematic structuring of the data. The range and central tendency of these themes are reported.


      The central theme for how care decisions are made among interdisciplinary providers was through the distribution of shared responsibility. The distribution of shared responsibility depended on interdisciplinary communication to navigate the two subthemes of time and roles. Time had to be navigated carefully, because it was both an opportunity for data acquisition and consensus building but also a pressure to decisively progress care. Roles were distinct but interchangeable and consisted of experts, actualizers, and questioners.


      Care decisions are made in the context of shared responsibility among interdisciplinary providers. Interdisciplinary communication is a means of establishing roles and navigating time to distribute shared responsibility among interdisciplinary providers.
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