Date of Award

Fall 12-5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Patricia Clark

Second Advisor

Cecelia Grindel

Third Advisor

Pamela O'Neal

Fourth Advisor

Kenneth Leeper


Patients who require mechanical ventilation (MV) are at risk for developing ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP). Nurses’ adherence to sedation vacations (SVs) has a direct impact on the development of VAP, because SVs have been shown to reduce patients’ average duration of MV and length of stay (LOS) in the intensive care unit (ICU). The purposes of this study guided by Donabedian’s (1966) model were to quantify nurses’ level of adherence to SVs, in relation to the health outcomes of critically ill patients, and identify the barriers and facilitators to performing SVs.

A correlational design was used. The design included three components: abstraction of patient data from the electronic medical record (EMR) (n=79 with VAP and n=79 without VAP), administration of surveys to ICU nurses (N =34), and vignettes related to SVs. Analyses included descriptive statistics, t-tests, correlations, and analyses of covariance.

Most nurses held a Bachelors degree (70.6%), had < 9 years of ICU experience (52.9%), worked in a medical ICU (47.1%), and reported high confidence in managing SVs (M =8.88, SD =1.25). The majority of patients (N =158) were Black (58.2%), males (56.3%), and on average middle-aged (M =61.5, SD =14.91), with a long ICU LOS (M =15.5, SD =11.84), extended duration of MV (M =9.5, SD =8.47), and high acuity (APACHE III) (M =70.2, SD =25.42).

The nurses’ education, advanced certification, and ICU experience were not associated with the appropriate implementation of SVs in the vignettes. On average nurses’ had low scores on the vignettes (M =6.97, SD =2.21; possible range =0-14). The adherence rate of nurses’ implementation of SVs, determined using EMR data, was also low (M =24%; SD =23%). There were higher rates of SV adherence in patients without VAP (p (p < .01), and a duration of MV < 6 days (p =.04).

These findings indicate that even with established protocols, nurses may not consistently implement the evidenced-based interventions that have been shown to prevent nosocomial infections. Future research is needed to improve nursing practice and the quality of care in this patient population.