Staff perceptions of palliative care in a public Australian, metropolitan emergency department
Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Research
Objective: The primary aim was to investigate staff experiences and attitudes towards palliative care provision in a public metropolitan ED. Methods: Using a previously validated survey tool, data were collected from ED clinical staff using Likert-type, open-ended and dichotomous items asking about perceptions of palliative care and education needs. Comparisons were made between nursing and medical staff. Results: Medical staff and nurses' perceptions of palliative care were similar, differing on only 10 of 37 (Likert) items. All staff reported confidence with symptom management, whereas medical staff felt more confident with decision-oriented communication and nurses were more supportive of nasogastric feeding. Staff were moderately accurate in determining the five most common causes of death. Four out of five conditions selected as appropriate for palliative care were cancer diagnoses. End-of-life communication and ethical issues were the two most frequently requested areas for further education. Conclusions: Our study suggests that overall ED staff were confident regarding symptom management in palliative care. Cancer diagnoses were overrepresented in both the top five causes of death and conditions most appropriate for a palliative approach, suggesting that staff might underestimate the role of a palliative approach in non-cancer diagnoses. Areas suggested for further education include communication and ethical issues surrounding end-of-life care.