The role of the non-ICU staff nurse on a medical emergency team: perceptions and understanding

Margaret E Pusateri, Michele M Prior, Sharon C Kiely
American Journal of Nursing 2011, 111 (5): 22-9; quiz 30-1

OBJECTIVE: Medical emergency teams (METs) have been shown to contribute to a decrease in in-hospital cardiac arrests, unplanned ICU admissions, and overall hospital mortality rates. But their use is relatively new and our understanding of them is incomplete; in particular, the role of the non-ICU staff nurse during a MET call has received scant attention. To better understand the role of such nurses, and possibly to increase the effectiveness of these teams, we sought to determine the nursing staff's familiarity with and perceptions of the MET at one hospital.

METHODS: After examining survey formats used in previous studies of nurses' perceptions of and attitudes toward METs, a 30-item survey was developed, consisting of 13 demographic and background items and 17 items based on a 5-point Likert agreement scale. In August 2008, the survey was distributed to the 388 nurses at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for whom the MET is a possible resource-that is, non-ICU staff nurses working outside critical care units or the ED. Responses were anonymous and voluntary. Data were entered and analyzed using Microsoft Excel software.

RESULTS: One hundred and thirty-one surveys (34%) were returned. Nearly all of the respondents (97%) were familiar with the MET, and a majority (72%) had participated in a MET call. Initiating the call (77%) and relaying the patient's history (84%) were the most common actions. A majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that use of the MET improved patient care (92%) and nurses' working conditions (83%). But only 41% agreed or strongly agreed that they were comfortable with their role as a member of the MET, and 39% reported neutral feelings about this. Just 41% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt prepared to administer nursing care during a MET call. A majority (52%) agreed or strongly agreed that an increase in experience corresponded to an increase in preparedness, but only 28% agreed or strongly agreed that their MET education had prepared them for their role. Nearly a third (31%) reported that they'd been hesitant to call a MET, citing physician discouragement as the most common reason.

CONCLUSIONS: Nurses felt that the MET improved both patient care and their working conditions, something that other studies have found may contribute to nurse retention and recruitment. But the role of the non-ICU staff nurse during a MET call remains unclear; nurses were neutral about their level of understanding of and comfort with their roles as members of the MET. More specific guidelines and further education may help the non-ICU staff nurse feel more valued as a team member and better prepared to administer nursing care during a MET call. Intimidation by other team members proved not to be a significant factor in nurse participation on the team, but the data may not have accurately described the unique relationship between the non-ICU staff nurse and the responding ICU nurses. Some non-ICU staff nurses were hesitant to call the team, for reasons that included physician discouragement; this could seriously undermine the effectiveness of the MET and indicates that better interprofessional education is needed.

KEYWORDS: bedside nurse, medical emergency team, non-ICU staff nurse, nurse attitudes, patient crisis, patient safety, rapid response system, survey.

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