How well do we understand health care professionals' perceptions and needs in the provision of palliative care? A mixed methods study
Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Objectives: Despite palliative care being standard for patients with chronic and/or life-limiting conditions, a perceived lack of clarity regarding the definition and scope of palliative care persists. We aimed to identify health care professionals' (HCPs) perspectives, education, and support needs related to palliative care provision in a large private Australian tertiary hospital. Methods: A validated survey was administered and four focus groups were conducted with multidisciplinary HCPs. Results: The survey response rate was 50% (n = 302). Although critical care HCPs scored symptom management and patient/family interaction items more highly compared with other HCPs, mean scores (<4.0) for both groups indicated participants lacked confidence to perform this aspect of care independently. Critical care HCPs were more comfortable caring for dying patients (p < 0.001) and talking to families about death (p < 0.001). Ward HCPs were more supportive of early referral to palliative care (p < 0.001). Cancer diagnoses were overestimated as common causes of death. Education needs focused on ethical issues, end-of-life communication skills, dealing with delirium, and use of the Liverpool Care Pathway. Key themes identified from the four focus groups were (1) delays or nonreferral to palliative care created considerable stress and feelings of inadequacy despite a perceived understanding of the broader definition of palliative care and (2) HCPs commonly focused on end-of-life care. Conclusion: Ambiguity regarding the meaning and delivery of palliative care persists in the acute care setting across disciplines. Results confirmed that innovative approaches to education and upskilling HCPs in palliative care and referral pathways is warranted. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.