Ruth Engelberg

Research Associate Professor of Medicine


Faculty Web Page

Authored articles (PubMed)

Last updated:  January 13, 2011


Research Focus

Dr. Engelberg is a co-director of the End-of-life Care Research Program located at Harborview Medical Center; the program focuses on measuring and improving the quality of palliative and end-of-life care for patients with critical illness, chronic lung disease, and other chronic illnesses. We are particularly interested in how communication with patients and their families affects end-of-life care and have developed a number of measurement tools for measuring quality of care and quality of communication as well as several interventions designed to improve communication and quality of care. Our research uses both quantitative and qualitative methods including survey research methods, medical record review, focus groups, semi-structured interviews and direct observation. More information is available at the End-of-Life Care website. 

Relevant Publications

Patrick DL, Curtis JR, Engelberg RA, Nielsen E, McCown E. Measuring and improving the quality of dying and death. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2003; 139 (5 Pt 2): 410-5.

Curtis JR, Engelberg RA, Wenrich MD, Shannon SE, Treece PD, Rubenfeld GD. Missed opportunities during family conferences about end-of-life care in the intensive care unit. Am J Resp Crit Care Med. 2005; 171(8): 844-9.

Engelberg RA, Patrick DL, Curtis JR. Measuring the quality of dying and death: Correspondence between patients’ preferences and surrogates’ understandings. Journal Pain and Symptom Management. 2005;30 (6): 498-509.

Engelberg RA, Downey L, Curtis JR. Psychometric characteristics of a quality of communication questionnaire: Assessing communication about end-of-life care. J Palliat Med 2006;9:1086-98.

Stapleton RD, Engelberg RA, Wenrich MD, Goss CH, Curtis JR. Clinician statements and family satisfaction with family conferences in the intensive care unit. Crit Care Med 2006;43:1679-85.

Curtis JR, Engelberg RA, Young PJ, Vig EK, Reinke LF, Wenrich MD, McGrath B, McCown E, Back AL. An approach to understanding the interaction of hope and desire for explicit prognostic information among individuals with severe COPD or advanced cancer. J Palliat Med 2008, 11 (4): 610-620.

Engelberg RA, Wenrich MD, Curtis JR. Responding to families’ questions about the meaning of physical movements in critically ill patients. J Crit Care 2008, 23 (4): 565-71.

Gerstel E, Engelberg RA, Koepsell T, Curtis JR. Duration of withdrawal of life support in the ICU and association with family satisfaction. Am J. Respir Crit Care Med 2008, 178(8): 798-804.

Gries CJ, Curtis JR, Wall RJ, Engelberg RA. Family member satisfaction with end-of-life decision making in the ICU. Chest 2008;133(3):704-12.

Back AL, Young JP, McCown E, Engelberg RA, Vig EK, Reinke LF, Wenrich MD, McGrath BB, Curtis JR. Abandonment at the end of life from patient, caregiver, nurse and physician perspectives: Loss of continuity and lack of closure. Arch Intern Med. 2009; 169 (5):474-9.

Downey L, Engelberg RA, Curtis JR, Lafferty WE, Patrick DL. Shared priorities for the end-of-life period. J Pain Symptom Management 2009;37(2):175-88. PMCID: PMC2746763.

Gries CJ, Engelberg RA, Zatzick D, Kross ER, Nielsen EL, Curtis JR. Predictors of symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression in family members after the death of an intensive care unit patient. Chest. 2010; 137(2):280-7. PMCID: PMC2816640.

Engelberg RA, Downey L, Wenrich MD, Carline JD, Silvestri GA, Dotolo D,Nielsen EL, Curtis JR. Measuring the quality of end-of-life care. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2010; 39(6):951-71.


Active Funding

Funding Source

Project Title

Investigator Role

Funding Dates


An ICU Intervention to Improve End-of-Life Care


 4/2001 - 3/2013


Improving Patient Outcomes in End-of-Life Care Provided by Physicians and Nurses


 4/2007 - 3/2012


Improving Quality of Comunication about End-of-Life


7/2002 - 6/2012


Using a Navigator to Facilitate Older Adults' Cancer Management Decisions


7/2008 - 6/2011

Current Mentees




 Erin Kross  MD, MSc   Improving outcomes for patients and families after critical
 Kevin Patel  MD, MSc   Improving end-of-life care for patients dying in the setting of
  full support
 Tristan Osborne  MD   Associations between family satisfaction and the quality of
  dying and death
 Robert Dickson  MD   Associations between residents' perception of competence
  in end-of-life communication and patients'/families'/clinicians's


Past Mentees



Current title


 J. Daryl Thornton  MD, MPH  Assistant Professor  Case-Western University
 Wendi Norris  MD, MSW  Private Practice  Boise, ID
 Elizabeth Knauft  MD, MPH  Private Practice  Maine
 Richard Wall  MD, MPH  Private Practice  Seattle, WA
 Cynthia Gries  MD, MSc  Assistant Professor  University of Pittsburgh
 Jonathon McDonaugh  MD  Cardiology Fellowship  University of Minnesota
 Heather Fraser West  MD  Oncology Fellowship  University of Virginia
 Naomi Hodde  MD  Acting Instructor  University of Washington
 Bradford Glavan  MD  Pulmonary and
 Crit Care Fellow
 University of Washington
 Chris Slatore  MD, MSc  Assistant Professor  University of Oregon
 Molly Billings  MD, MPH  Research Fellow  Dept of Veteran Affairs, Puget
 Sound Health Care System
 Lawrence Ho  MD  Pulmonary and
 Crit Care Fellow
 Stanford University
 Sarah Muni  MD  Pulmonary and
 Crit Care Fellow
 University of California,
 San Francisco
 Mithya Lewis-Newby  MD, MPH  Assistant Professor  Seattle Children's Hospital
 Lynn Reinke  RN, MN, PhD  Post-doctoral Fellow  VAPSHS, University of
 Andrew McCormick  MSW, PhD  Doctoral Student  Portland State University



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