Little is known about health care professionals' perceptions regarding what it means to treat patients and families with respect and dignity in the intensive care unit (ICU) setting. To address this gap, we conducted nine focus groups with different types of health care professionals (attending physicians, residents/fellows, nurses, social workers, pastoral care, etc.) working in either a medical or surgical ICU within the same academic health system. We identified three major thematic domains, namely, intrapersonal (attitudes and beliefs), interpersonal (behaviors), and system (contextual) factors that influence treatment with respect and dignity. Participants suggested strategies for improving treatment of patients and families in the ICU with respect and dignity, as well as the related need for enhancing respect among the multidisciplinary team of clinicians. Implementing these strategies will require innovative educational interventions and leadership. Future research should focus on the design and evaluation of such interventions on the quality of care.
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