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Do Not Resuscitate (DNR): What Nurses Should Know

As a nurse, you are important in delivering high-quality care for all your patients. Providing life-saving interventions in a healthcare setting is a part of what you do. You are also responsible for advocating for and implementing your patients’ rights regarding care decisions.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders are legal documents related to a patient’s rights, applicable to potentially end-of-life situations and how you should proceed. Today’s post will tell you what you need to know about DNR orders to help you prepare for whenever you deal with a patient emergency and the DNR comes into play.

What is a DNR Order?

Every patient has the right to consent to the treatments they wish to receive and to refuse procedures that they do not want to be performed. Patients who wish to decline emergency treatments like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), intubation, or any life-sustaining treatment can do so through do not resuscitate orders.

Also called Do Not Intubate (DNI) and Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) in some states, A DNR order is a legal document signed by the patient and care providers. DNR orders provide directives on a patient’s desires to opt out of emergency interventions like CPR, and also provides instructions on parameters for resuscitation, including medication administration, chest compressions, intubation, and even gastric feedings in some instances.

Living Wills, Power of Attorney, & Advance Directives with DNR Orders

DNR orders are a type of end-of-life document, and there are a few more documents you should know of because they relate to the DNR.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) concerning a patient’s healthcare is also called a Healthcare Power of Attorney document (HPOA). This essential legal document permits someone to act on a patient’s behalf in medical situations when the patient cannot make crucial decisions for their care. HPOAs may name a specific healthcare provider, granting physicians, nurse practitioners, or other care providers the power of attorney regarding a patient’s care.

Living Wills and Advance Directives

Living Wills and Advance Directives are also essential end-of-life documents that work hand-in-hand with HPOAs to help care providers understand a patient’s preference concerning end-of-life procedures and care delivery.

Think of a DNR as a document preventing attempts to resuscitate a patient in emergencies where CPR, intubation, or other life-sustaining interventions might save their life. A living will or advance directive is another document that tells your care provider in advance whether you would like emergency resuscitation.

The Nurse’s Role in Emergencies Involving DNR Patients

The legal ramifications for nurses who do not attempt resuscitation or provide life-saving intervention are severe. If you’re dealing with a patient emergency, it’s essential to make sure there is an officially documented order signed by the patient (or someone with power of attorney), a doctor, physician, or nurse practitioner.

Suppose you’re dealing with an emergency involving a patient with a DNR. You must review the document to confirm their DNR preference. Ensuring that the patient’s will is carried out is critical, even if the physician overseeing their care or their family suggests or demands otherwise. You’re not just responsible for your patient’s care. You must also uphold their rights, even if it means not offering life-saving medical intervention.

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