Management of the Mechanical Ventilator is the responsibility of the Respiratory Therapist, but the nurse must be aware of the settings and the alarms to effectively care for his/her patient. Understanding the basics of the mechanical ventilator is the key in caring for patients who require an advanced airway and are on a mechanical ventilator. Nurses must be informed about the functions and limitations of ventilator modes, causes of respiratory distress and dyssynchrony with the ventilator, and appropriate management of high-quality patient care.
Prompt recognition of problems and action by the nurse may resolve acute respiratory distress, dyspnea, and increased work of breathing and therefore, prevent adverse events. Since mechanical ventilator support is routinely needed for critically-ill adults in intensive care units, the primary goals of mechanical ventilator support are to normalize arterial blood gas levels and acid-base imbalance by providing adequate ventilation and oxygenation.
Critical care nurses encounter numerous issues related to ventilator support, including physiological conditions that impede optimal ventilator function, ventilator support, dyspnea and patient ventilator dys-synchrony. Responsibilities related to ventilator management may vary among acute care settings. Communication among the interdisciplinary team promotes optimal outcomes, these team members include; primary physicians, respiratory therapists, nurses, and sometimes pulmonary specialists.
Because nurses are usually at the “front line” of patient care and are the first to encounter a ventilator related problem, it is essential for nurses to thoroughly understand the basics of ventilator support, including ventilator modes, settings, and alarms. It is also important to be skilled in properly identifying and managing common patient and ventilator related problems to provide optimal patient centered care and prevent complications.