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Patient and Family Education on Mechanical Ventilation

a doctor and family member looking at a sleeping inpatient

A Research Study to Improve Communication in the Intensive Care Unit

Mechanical ventilation saves lives, but it also carries potential complications. These include short-term harms, such as pneumonia, as well as problems that linger long after a hospital stay: physical weakness, difficulty thinking, depression and emotional issues.

Research has identified a set of practices that reduce these harms while helping patients leave the hospital sooner. This new approach seeks to help patients breathe on their own as soon as safely possible and to get them moving earlier in their hospital stays. Patients may even walk while still connected to the ventilator.

Yet communicating effectively with mechanically ventilated patients and their loved ones about the importance of these practices is challenging. Patients are often unconscious, and family members can be overwhelmed by their loved ones’ illness. They may worry that efforts to get patients breathing or moving on their own may cause suffering. The concepts of mechanical ventilation are complex.

Additionally, transitioning from the ICU with or without continued breathing assistance can be daunting. Patients and family members may not fully understand the plan of care or appreciate the potential for lingering problems related to mechanical ventilation.

Project Goal: Improved Communication and Education

Through a contract with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Armstrong Institute is partnering with patients and families to improve how providers communicate with them about:

  • the use of mechanical ventilation
  • potential complications and strategies to reduce them
  • the transition to post-ICU care
  • how families can take an active role in care

This feedback will guide the creation of educational materials that are broadly shared with hospitals.

Project Details

Official Study Name: Engaging Patients and Families to Improve Care for Mechanically Ventilated Patients

Principal investigator: Sean M. Berenholtz, M.D., M.H.S., F.C.C.M.

IRB#: 00075836

For More Information: Contact Hina Malik via or 410-637-6292.