Background: Pediatric palliative care occurs across contexts through the child's illness trajectory, including within the child or young person's community. Interactions with the ambulance service may occur with a child's deterioration, crisis, or when needing transfer, but there is little research on this interaction.
Aim: To explore the experiences and attitudes of ambulance officers in managing pediatric patients with palliative care needs.
Design: targeted e-mail survey was sent exploring perceptions of the involvement with these patients including exposure, comfort, resuscitation topics, and supports available.
Setting/Participants: Participants were Queensland ambulance officers known to have had an interaction with one of the last 50 pediatric palliative care referrals across Queensland.
Results: Twenty-two survey responses were received. Most of the palliative group accessed ambulances for the 13-month study period. Most ambulance officers did not easily identify patients as receiving palliative care. Many participants felt these cases were challenging, confidence levels varied, and staff counselling services were felt to be relevant. Ambulance officers were most likely to use correspondence provided by the family from their usual team as a guide for emergency management. Half of the participants felt patients receiving pediatric palliative care should have a "not for resuscitation" order. Respondents suggested officer support could be improved through increased patient documentation and promotion of existing officer supports.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate challenges experienced by ambulance officers and suggest practical ways in which pediatric palliative care services can better support emergency services.
Background: Communication between clinicians and families of dying children in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) is critically important for optimal care of the child and the family.
Objective: We examined the current state of clinician perspective on communication with families of dying children in the PICU.
Design: Prospective case series over a 15-month study period.
Setting/Subjects: We surveyed nurses, psychosocial staff, and physicians who cared for dying children in PICUs at five U.S. academic hospitals.
Measurements: Clinicians reported on the location of communication, perceived barriers to end-of-life care, and rated the quality of communication (QOC).
Results: We collected 565 surveys from 287 clinicians who cared for 169 dying children. Clinicians reported that the majority of communication occurred at the bedside, and less commonly family conferences and rounds. Ten barriers to care were examined and were reported with frequencies of 2%–32%. QOC was rated higher when the majority of conversations occurred during family conferences (p = 0.01) and lower for patients of non-white race (p = 0.03). QOC decreased when 8 of the 10 barriers to care were reported.
Conclusions: When a child is dying, clinicians report that communication with the family occurs most frequently at the child's bedside. This has important implications for future ICU communication research as the majority of previous research and education has focused on family care conferences. In addition, findings that QOC is perceived as lower for non-white patients and when clinicians perceive that barriers hindering care are present can help direct future efforts to improve communication in the PICU.
Advance care planning enables parents to discuss goals and preferences for future care and treatment of their seriously ill child. Although clinicians report parental factors as common barriers for advance care planning, parental views on reflecting on their child’s future have had limited exploration. A clear understanding of their perspectives might help clinicians to implement advance care planning tailored to parental needs. This interpretive qualitative study using thematic analysis aims to identify how parents envision the future when caring for their seriously ill child. Single interviews and two focus groups were attended by 20 parents of 17 seriously ill children. Parents reported to focus on the near future of their child. However, their actions and deeper thoughts showed perspectives towards a further future. Future perspectives initial focused on practical, disease-related themes, but more existential elaborations, reflecting underlying life values, were also identified. Parents needed acknowledgement of their challenging situation, care tasks, and expertise as a precondition for sharing their deepest thoughts regarding the future of their child.
Conclusion: When envisioning the future of their seriously ill child, parents tend to stay in the near future, whereas they value the opportunity to share further thoughts within a compassionate relationship with clinicians.
BACKGROUND: Phase of Illness is used to describe the stages of a patient’s illness in the palliative care setting. Categorization is based on individual needs, family circumstances, and the adequacy of a care plan. Substantial ( = .67) and moderate ( = .52) inter-rater reliability is demonstrated when categorizing adults; however, there is a lack of similar studies in pediatrics.
OBJECTIVE: To test the inter-rater reliability of health-care professionals when assigning pediatric palliative care patients to a Phase of Illness. Furthermore, to obtain user views on phase definitions, ease of assignment, feasibility and acceptability of use.
METHOD: A prospective cohort study in which up to 9 health-care professionals' independently allocated 80 pediatric patients to a Phase of Illness and reported on their experiences. This study took place between June and November 2017.
RESULTS: Professionals achieved a moderate level of agreement ( = 0.50). Kappa values per phase were as follows: stable = 0.63 (substantial), unstable = 0.26 (fair), deteriorating = 0.45 (moderate), and dying = 0.43 (moderate). For the majority of allocations, professionals report that the phase definitions described patients very well (76.1%), and they found it easy to assign patients (73.5%). However, the unstable phase caused the most uncertainty.
CONCLUSION: The results of this study suggest Phase of Illness is a moderately reliable, acceptable, and feasible tool for use in pediatric palliative care. Current results are similar to those found in some adult studies. However, in a quarter of cases, users report some uncertainty in the application of the tool, and further study is warranted to explore whether suggested refinements improve its psychometric properties.
BACKGROUND: Despite advances in medical care, pediatric deaths are still an unfortunate reality. Most of these deaths occur within a hospital setting. End-of-life care is an important part of medical care for children with serious illnesses. Despite the importance, pediatric providers report a lack of comfort surrounding end-of-life care.
OBJECTIVE: To assess categorical pediatric residents' perceptions and participation in providing end-of-life care to dying children and their families.
STUDY DESIGN: This is a survey-based, descriptive, mixed-methods study. Survey was sent to categorical pediatric residents at Indiana University School of Medicine in June 2018 to obtain both quantitative and qualitative information on resident perception and participation in end-of-life care. Surveys were sent to 100 residents with a response rate of 68%.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Pediatric residents at Indiana University School of Medicine.
RESULTS: The comfort and participation in end-of-life care are limited in all levels of pediatric training. Residents do not feel comfortable with 19 of 22 questions related to end-of-life care. Only 32% of residents felt their education prepared them to participate in end-of-life care. Almost one-fifth (19.5%) of residents report participating in zero aspect of end-of-life care. Themes discussed by residents include education, experience, communication, social norms, emotions, self-care, comfort, and family.
CONCLUSION: More formalized education and training is needed to increase resident comfort with and participation in end-of-life care. Such future interventions should focus on communication surrounding difficult conversations and providing guidance for families.
BACKGROUND: Children and families in pediatric palliative care depend on close contact with health care personnel, and electronic health (eHealth) is suggested to support care at home by facilitating their remote interactions.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to identify and review the use of eHealth to communicate and support home-based pediatric palliative care and appraise the methodological quality of the published research.
METHODS: We conducted a convergent, systematic mixed methods review and searched Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online (Medline), EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Web of Science, and Scopus for eligible papers. Studies evaluating 2-way communication technology for palliative care for children aged = 18 years and applying quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods from 2012 to 2018 were eligible for inclusion. Quantitative and qualitative studies were equally valued during the search, screening, extraction, and analysis. Quantitative data were transformed into qualitative data and analyzed using a thematic analysis. Overall, 2 independent researchers methodologically appraised all included studies.
RESULTS: We identified 1277 citations. Only 7 papers were eligible for review. Evaluating eHealth interventions in pediatric palliative care poses specific methodological and ethical challenges. eHealth to facilitate remote pediatric palliative care was acknowledged both as an intrusion and as a support at home. Reluctance toward eHealth was mainly identified among professionals.
CONCLUSIONS: The strengths of the conclusions are limited by the studies' methodological challenges. Despite the limitless possibilities held by new technologies, research on eHealth in home-based pediatric palliative care is scarce. The affected children and families appeared to hold positive attitudes toward eHealth, although their views were less apparent compared with those of the professionals.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: PROSPERO CRD42018119051; https://tinyurl.com/rtsw5ky.
BACKGROUND: Societal attitudes about end-of-life events are at odds with how, where, and when children die. In addition, parents' ideas about what constitutes a "good death" in a pediatric intensive care unit vary widely.
OBJECTIVE: To synthesize parents' perspectives on end-of-life care in the pediatric intensive care unit in order to define the characteristics of a good death in this setting from the perspectives of parents.
METHODS: A concept analysis was conducted of parents' views of a good death in the pediatric intensive care unit. Empirical studies of parents who had experienced their child's death in the inpatient setting were identified through database searches.
RESULTS: The concept analysis allowed the definition of antecedents, attributes, and consequences of a good death. Empirical referents and exemplar cases of care of a dying child in the pediatric intensive care unit serve to further operationalize the concept.
CONCLUSIONS: Conceptual knowledge of what constitutes a good death from a parent's perspective may allow pediatric nurses to care for dying children in a way that promotes parents' coping with bereavement and continued bonds and memories of the deceased child. The proposed conceptual model synthesizes characteristics of a good death into actionable attributes to guide bedside nursing care of the dying child.
Background: There is a lack of studies examining the prevalence and severity of psychosocial distress in parents caring for a child with life-limiting condition. More research is also needed to better understand the experience, support needs and quality-of-life of this population.
Aim: To describe the experience and support needs of caring for children with life-limiting conditions and examine the level of distress and quality-of-life experienced by parents.
Design: Cross-sectional, prospective, quantitative study guided by an advisory group. Participants completed a survey that included demographics and self-report outcome measures of unmet support needs, appraisal of caregiving, psychological distress and quality-of-life. Bivariate correlation analyses were performed to examine for associations between measures.
Setting/participants: Parents currently caring for one or more children (<=18 years) with a life-limiting condition and registered with a paediatric palliative care service (Australia).
Results: In total, 143 parents (88% female) completed the questionnaire (36% RR). Compared with population norms, participants reported low quality-of-life, high carer burden and high psychological distress. Almost half (47%) of the sample met the criteria for one or more diagnoses of clinically elevated stress, anxiety or depression. There were significant associations between the psychosocial outcome variables; carer strain and depression had the strongest correlations with quality-of-life (r = –.63, p < .001, for both). Participants also reported multiple unmet needs related to emotional and practical support.
Conclusions: This study contributes to the growing body of evidence on paediatric palliative care, specifically that parents caring for a child with a life-limiting condition report high levels of distress and burden, low quality-of-life and need more emotional and practical support targeted at their unmet needs. Paediatric palliative care services should routinely assess parent mental health and provide appropriate support.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Advanced heart failure in children is characterized by dynamic clinical trajectories, uncertainty of prognosis, and intermittent need for difficult decision-making, often related to novel therapeutic interventions with uncertain impact on quality of life. This review will examine the current role of palliative care to support this unique population.
RECENT FINDINGS: Pediatric heart failure patients commonly die in ICUs with high burden of invasive therapies together with end of life care needs. In addition, several studies advocate for integration of palliative care early in disease trajectory, not only focused on end of life care. Many advocate for the core tenets of palliative care (symptom management, communication of prognosis, and advanced care planning) to be provided by the primary cardiology team, with consultation by pediatric palliative care specialists. There is also a consensus that palliative care training should be incorporated into pediatric advanced heart disease training programs.
SUMMARY: Palliative care is an important component of pediatric heart failure care. Research and quality improvement efforts are needed to determine the most effective palliative care interventions for children with advanced heart disease. Provision of palliative care is an essential component of training for pediatric heart failure and transplant specialists.
Spinal muscular atrophy type 1 (SMA-1) is a severe neurodegenerative disorder, which in the absence of curative treatment, leads to death before 1 year of age in most cases. Caring for these short-lived and severely impaired infants requires palliative management. New drugs (nusinersen) have recently been developed that may modify SMA-1 natural history and thus raise ethical concerns about the appropriate level of care for patients. The national Hospital Clinical Research Program (PHRC) called "Assessment of clinical practices of palliative care in children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 (SMA-1)" was a multicenter prospective study conducted in France between 2012 and 2016 to report palliative practices in SMA-1 in real life through prospective caregivers' reports about their infants' management. Thirty-nine patients were included in the prospective PHRC (17 centers). We also studied retrospective data regarding management of 43 other SMA-1 patients (18 centers) over the same period, including seven treated with nusinersen, in comparison with historical data from 222 patients previously published over two periods of 10 years (1989-2009). In the latest period studied, median age at diagnosis was 3 months [0.6-10.4]. Seventy-seven patients died at a median 6 months of age[1-27]: 32% at home and 8% in an intensive care unit. Eighty-five percent of patients received enteral nutrition, some through a gastrostomy (6%). Sixteen percent had a non-invasive ventilation (NIV). Seventy-seven percent received sedative treatment at the time of death. Over time, palliative management occurred more frequently at home with increased levels of technical supportive care (enteral nutrition, oxygenotherapy, and analgesic and sedative treatments). No statistical difference was found between the prospective and retrospective patients for the last period. However, significant differences were found between patients treated with nusinersen vs. those untreated. Our data confirm that palliative care is essential in management of SMA-1 patients and that parents are extensively involved in everyday patient care. Our data suggest that nusinersen treatment was accompanied by significantly more invasive supportive care, indicating that a re-examination of standard clinical practices should explicitly consider what treatment pathways are in infants' and caregivers' best interest. This study was registered on clinicaltrials.gov under the reference NCT01862042 (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT01862042?cond=SMA1&rank=8).
BACKGROUND: In pediatric hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), the end-of-life (EOL) phase and the loss of the child is often characterized by a sudden deterioration of the child following a period of intensive curative treatment. This demands a fast transition for parents. Therefore, an understanding of the parents' perspective on decision-making in such a complex situation is needed. This study aims to gain insight in parental experiences in EOL decision-making in allogeneic pediatric HSCT.
METHODS: A qualitative descriptive study was performed among parents of eight families. Data were thematically analyzed.
RESULTS: All parents were aware of their child's deterioration. Six families were confronted with a rapid deterioration, while two families experienced a gradual realization that their child would not survive. Parental EOL decision-making in pediatric HSCT shows a reflective perspective on the meaning of parenthood in EOL decision-making. Two central themes were identified: "survival-oriented decision-making" and "struggling with doubts in hindsight." Six subthemes within the first theme described the parents' goal of doing everything to achieve survival.
DISCUSSION: Parents experienced EOL decision-making mainly as a process guided by health care professionals (HCPs) based on the child's condition and treatment possibilities. The decision-making is characterized by following opportunities and focusing on hope for cure. In hindsight parents experienced doubts about treatment steps and their child's suffering. HCPs can strengthen the parental role by an early integration of palliative care, providing timely support to parents in the process of imminent loss. Advance care planning can be used to support communication processes, defining preferences for future care.
OBJECTIVES: Describe pediatric palliative care consult in children with heart disease; retrospectively apply Center to Advance Palliative Care criteria for pediatric palliative care consults; determine the impact of pediatric palliative care on end of life.
DESIGN: A retrospective single-center study.
SETTING: A 16-bed cardiac ICU in a university-affiliated tertiary care children's hospital.
PATIENTS: Children (0-21 yr old) with heart disease admitted to the cardiac ICU from January 2014 to June 2017.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Over 1,000 patients (n = 1, 389) were admitted to the cardiac ICU with 112 (8%) receiving a pediatric palliative care consultation. Patients who received a consult were different from those who did not. Patients who received pediatric palliative care were younger at first hospital admission (median 63 vs 239 d; p = 0.003), had a higher median number of complex chronic conditions at the end of first hospitalization (3 vs 1; p < 0.001), longer cumulative length of stay in the cardiac ICU (11 vs 2 d; p < 0.001) and hospital (60 vs 7 d; p < 0.001), and higher mortality rates (38% vs 3%; p < 0.001). When comparing location and modes of death, patients who received pediatric palliative care were more likely to die at home (24% vs 2%; p = 0.02) and had more comfort care at the end of life (36% vs 2%; p = 0.002) compared to those who did not. The Center to Advance Palliative Care guidelines identified 158 patients who were eligible for pediatric palliative care consultation; however, only 30 patients (19%) in our sample received a consult.
CONCLUSIONS: Pediatric palliative care consult rarely occurred in the cardiac ICU. Patients who received a consult were medically complex and experienced high mortality. Comfort care at the end of life and death at home was more common when pediatric palliative care was consulted. Missed referrals were apparent when Center to Advance Palliative Care criteria were retrospectively applied.
BACKGROUND: Moral distress is an important and well-studied phenomenon among nurses and other healthcare providers, yet the conceptualization of parental moral distress remains unclear.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this dimensional analysis was to describe the nature of family moral distress in serious pediatric illness.
DESIGN AND METHODS: A dimensional analysis of articles retrieved from a librarian-assisted systematic review of Scopus, CINAHL, and PsychInfo was conducted, focusing on how children, parents, other family members, and healthcare providers describe parental moral distress, both explicitly through writings on parental moral experience and implicitly through writings on parental involvement in distressing aspects of the child's serious illness.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: To promote child and family best interest and minimize harm, a nuanced understanding of the moral, existential, emotional, and spiritual impact of serious pediatric illness is needed. The cases used in this dimensional analysis come from the first author's IRB approved study at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and subsequent published studies; or have been adapted from the literature and the authors' clinical experiences.
FINDINGS: Three dimensions emerged from the literature surrounding parent moral distress: an intrapersonal dimension, an interpersonal dimension, and a spiritual/existential dimension. The overarching theme is that parents experience relational solace and distress because of the impact of their child's illness on relationships with themselves, their children, family, healthcare providers, their surrounding communities, and society.
DISCUSSION: Elucidating this concept can help nurses and other professionals understand, mitigate, or eliminate antecedents to parental moral distress. We discuss how this model can facilitate future empirical and conceptual bioethics research, as well as inform the manner in which healthcare providers engage, collaborate with, and care for families during serious pediatric illness.
CONCLUSION: Parent moral distress is an important and complex phenomenon that requires further theoretical and empirical investigation. We provide an integrated definition and dimensional schematic model that may serve as a starting point for future research and dialogue.
Children with cancer experience multiple symptoms at end of life (EOL) that impair their health-related quality of life. Using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, this integrative literature review comprehensively summarized symptom experiences of children with cancer at EOL. The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), PubMed, and Academic Premier were searched between January 2007 to September 2019 for articles published in English using the MeSH terms: symptom burden or distress AND children with cancer or pediatric cancer or cancer children or oncology and pediatrics AND EOL care or palliative care or death or dying or terminally ill. The inclusion criteria were the following: (a) study designs [randomized controlled trials, nonexperimental, secondary analysis (if aims were distinct from primary studies) and qualitative]; (b) participants <18 years old (died of cancer, had no realistic chance of cure, or had advanced cancer); and (c) focused on symptom experiences/burden at EOL. Exclusion criteria were nonresearch articles, systematic reviews, case studies, reports, and studies that focused on cancer survivors and/or those receiving curative therapies. Twenty-seven articles met inclusion criteria. The most prevalent symptoms-pain, fatigue, dyspnea, and loss of appetitewere associated with impairments in health-related quality of life. Children with brain tumors experienced higher symptom burden compared to those with hematologic/solid malignancies. Children who received cancer-directed therapies experienced disproportionate symptoms and were more likely to die in the intensive care unit compared with those who did not receive cancer-directed therapies. Most common location of death was home. This integrative review indicated that children with cancer were polysymptomatic at EOL. Strategies facilitating effective symptom management at EOL are needed.
Paediatric palliative care (PPC) is regarded as standard care for children and young people (CYP) with life-limiting conditions (LLCs). There is a lack of knowledge about the rate of CYP with LLCs, hampering the development of PPC. This retrospective study aimed to examine population-based statistics of South Korean CYP with LLCs and the pattern of healthcare use and costs in their last year of life, analysing the National Health Insurance Service claims database for the period 2013–2015. In 2015, the number of CYP (=24 years old) living with LLCs was 133,177, with those who died accounting for 1,032. Prevalence of LLC and mortality rate per 100,000 were highest among under-1-age group (2,151.7 and 82.7, respectively). In the last year of life, 91.8% of deceased CYP with LLCs were hospitalized at least once and the average length of stay was 101.2 days (standard deviation = 104.1). Deceased CYP with cancer spent more on healthcare than non-cancer CYP (64,266 vs. 40,694 US dollar, p < 0.001). The average relevance index for CYP death related to LLCs was 55.9%. Our results provide baseline information on healthcare utilization and expenditure among CYP with LLCs, which is crucial data for designing evidence-based PPC policy and services.
AIM: Parents' role as end-of-life decision-makers for their child has become largely accepted Western health-care practice. How parents subsequently view and live with the end-of-life decision (ELD) they made has not been extensively examined. To help extend understanding of this phenomenon and contribute to care, as a part of a study on end-of-life decision-making, bereaved parents were asked about the aftermath of their decision-making.
METHODS: A qualitative methodology was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents who had discussed ELDs for their child who had a life-limiting condition and had died. Data were thematically analysed.
RESULTS: Twenty-five bereaved parents participated. Results indicate that parents hold multi-faceted views about their decision-making experiences. An ELD was viewed as weighty in nature, with decisions judged against the circumstances that the child and parents found themselves in. Despite the weightiness, parents reflected positively on their decisions, regarding themselves as making the right decision. Consequently, parents' comments demonstrated being able to live with their decision. When expressed, regret related to needing an ELD, rather than the actual decision. The few parents who did not perceive themselves as their child's decision-maker subsequently articulated negative reactions. Enduring concerns held by some parents mostly related to non-decisional matters, such as the child's suffering or not knowing the cause of death.
CONCLUSION: Results suggest that parents can live well with the ELDs they made for their child. End-of-life decision-making knowledge is confirmed and extended, and clinical support for parents informed.
OBJECTIVE: To characterize how pediatric resident self-evaluation compares to standardized patient evaluations in simulated child death disclosure scenarios.
STUDY DESIGN: This was a prospective, observational, mixed-methods study in which 18 PGY-2 pediatric residents delivered the news of a death of a child to a trained standardized patient (SP) couple. The SPs evaluated residents via a quantitative global rating (1 to 3 scale) and via qualitative comments. Following the training, the residents completed self-assessments consisting of a global rating, qualitative comments, and their confidence related to five death disclosure skills.
RESULTS: Agreement between SPs and resident ratings was poor; resident scores were compared to each of their two SP evaluators yielding Kappa coefficients of -0.23 (95% CI = -0.60 to -0.07) and –0.30 (95% CI = -0.70 to –0.04). Residents uniformly rated themselves as less capable in their communication skills than SPs did. Residents reported significant increases in their confidence in discussing autopsy and organ donation. Major themes determined from the qualitative comments from SPs included non-verbal communication, verbal communication, attunement to parents, and management of next steps. Residents’ comments mirrored these themes with the exception of the absence of non-verbal communication.
CONCLUSIONS: Pediatric residents underestimated their abilities in a self-assessment of their performance in a SP death disclosure scenario, demonstrating the importance of external feedback, particularly from SPs themselves. Based on SP feedback, future death disclosure trainings should emphasize non-verbal communication skills and specific behaviors that convey effective attunement to families.
Background: Paediatric life-limiting and life-threatening conditions (life-limiting conditions) place significant strain on children, families and health systems. Given high service use among this population, it is essential that care addresses their main symptoms and concerns.
Aim: This study aimed to identify the symptoms, concerns and other outcomes that matter to children with life-limiting conditions and their families in sub-Saharan Africa.
Setting and participants: Cross-sectional qualitative study in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Uganda. Children/caregivers of children aged 0–17 years with life-limiting conditions were purposively sampled by age, sex and diagnosis. Children aged 7 and above self-reported; caregiver proxies reported for children below 7 and those aged 7 and above unable to self-report.
Results: A total of 120 interviews were conducted with children with life-limiting conditions (n = 61; age range: 7–17 years), and where self-report was not possible, caregivers (n = 59) of children (age range: 0–17) were included. Conditions included advanced HIV (22%), cancer (19%), heart disease (16%) endocrine, blood and immune disorders (13%), neurological conditions (12%), sickle cell anaemia (10%) and renal disease (8%). Outcomes identified included physical concerns – pain and symptom distress; psycho-social concerns – family and social relationships, ability to engage with age-appropriate activities (e.g. play, school attendance); existential concerns – worry about death, and loss of ambitions; health care quality – child- and adolescent-friendly services. Priority psycho-social concerns and health service factors varied by age.
Conclusion: This study bridges an important knowledge gap regarding symptoms, concerns and outcomes that matter to children living with life-limiting conditions and their families and informs service development and evaluation.
OBJECTIVES: To describe and compare characteristics of care provided at the end of life for children with chronic complex conditions and neonates who died in an ICU with those who died outside an ICU.
DESIGN: Substudy of a nation-wide retrospective chart review.
SETTING: Thirteen hospitals, including 14 pediatric and neonatal ICUs, two long-term institutions, and 10 community-based organizations in the three language regions of Switzerland.
PATIENTS: One hundred forty-nine children (0-18 yr) who died in the years 2011 or 2012. Causes of death were related to cardiac, neurologic, oncological, or neonatal conditions.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Demographic and clinical characteristics, therapeutic procedures, circumstances of death, and patterns of decisional processes were extracted from the medical charts. Ninety-three (62%) neonates (median age, 4 d) and children (median age, 23 mo) died in ICU, and 56 (38%) with a median age of 63 months outside ICU. Generally, ICU patients had more therapeutic and invasive procedures, compared with non-ICU patients. Changes in treatment plan in the last 4 weeks of life, such as do-not-resuscitate orders occurred in 40% of ICU patients and 25% of non-ICU patients (p < 0.001). In the ICU, when decision to withdraw life-sustaining treatment was made, time to death in children and newborns was 4:25 and 3:00, respectively. In institutions where it was available, involvement of specialized pediatric palliative care services was recorded in 15 ICU patients (43%) and in 18 non-ICU patients (78%) (p = 0.008).
CONCLUSIONS: This nation-wide study demonstrated that patients with a complex chronic condition who die in ICU, compared with those who die outside ICU, are characterized by fast changing care situations, including when to withdraw life-sustaining treatment. This highlights the importance of early effective communication and shared decision making among clinicians and families.
Background: While the populations of children who can benefit from paediatric palliative care (PPC) have been broadly defined, identifying individual patients to receive PPC has been problematic in practice. The Paediatric Palliative Screening scale (PaPaS) is a multi-dimensional tool that assesses palliative care needs in children and families to facilitate timely referrals. This study evaluates its use to manage new referrals and ongoing review of patients receiving home-based PPC in Singapore.
Methods: Using a retrospective cohort study design, 199 patients admitted to receive PPC via clinician screening were scored using PaPaS. Eighty-four patients in two groups were scored again at one of two following milestones: one-year service continuation mark or point of discharge before a year. Accuracy measures were compared against clinical assessment.
Results: 96.98% of patients scored 15 and above on admission (indicating need for PPC). Patients assessed at following milestones were effectively stratified; those who continued to receive service after 1 year scored significantly higher (M = 19.23) compared to those who were discharged within a year (M = 7.86). Sensitivity and specificity for PaPaS were calculated at 82.54 and 100% respectively. Overall congruence with clinician-based decisions supports the utility of PaPaS as a screening tool in PPC. Recommendations to improve the scale further are proposed.
Conclusion: The PaPaS is a practical screening tool that signposts PPC needs within the clinical setting. This facilitates early referrals to PPC, without having to specify individual prognoses that are often uncertain. Other benefits include optimised continuity of care and implications for resource allocation.