Finding your way through EOL challenges in the ICU using Adaptive Leadership behaviours: A qualitative descriptive case study.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Using the Adaptive Leadership framework, we describe behaviours that providers used while interacting with family members facing the challenges of recognising that their loved one was dying in the ICU.

Research methodology

In this prospective pilot case study, we selected one ICU patient with end-stage illness who lacked decision-making capacity. Participants included four family members, one nurse and two physicians. The principle investigator observed and recorded three family conferences and conducted one in-depth interview with the family. Three members of the research team independently coded the transcripts using a priori codes to describe the Adaptive Leadership behaviours that providers used to facilitate the family's adaptive work, met to compare and discuss the codes and resolved all discrepancies.


We identified behaviours used by nurses and physicians that facilitated the family's ability to adapt to the impending death of a loved one. Examples of these behaviours include defining the adaptive challenges for families and foreshadowing a poor prognosis.


Nurse and physician Adaptive Leadership behaviours can facilitate the transition from curative to palliative care by helping family members do the adaptive work of letting go. Further research is warranted to create knowledge for providers to help family members adapt.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Adams, JA; Bailey, DE; Anderson, RA; Thygeson, M

Published Date

  • December 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 29 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 329 - 336

PubMed ID

  • 23879936

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC3870892

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-4036

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0964-3397

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.iccn.2013.05.004


  • eng