Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' seminal 1969 work, On Death and Dying, opened the door to understanding individuals' emotional experiences with serious illness and dying. Patient's emotions, however, are only half the story in the patient-physician relationship. In recent years physicians' emotional reactions have gotten more attention. These sometimes-unacknowledged emotions influence how we approach our work, including life and death decisions. This article reviews some of the main emotions physicians experience when caring for seriously ill and dying patients and the challenges physicians face in regulating their emotions in a professional setting. We also discuss some of the ways that physician emotion may influence medical decision-making and contribute to conflict. Attention to the emotional level of physician experience may promote better care.
Death rattle occurs during the last days of life, and relatives of those afflicted frequently report that it is very distressful. However, there is no effective treatment for it. The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of Japanese palliative care physicians in clinical practice in Japan. We conducted a nationwide survey of 268 physicians via an anonymous, self-report questionnaire. We assessed pharmacological and non-pharmacological management and anticholinergic agent choice. One hundred eighty-nine physicians (70.5%) returned the questionnaires. Fifty-five participants (29.1%) treating patients with Type-1 (real death rattle) and 36 participants (19%) treating patients with Type-2 (pseudo-death rattle) death rattle reported that they would frequently administer an anticholinergic agent. One-fourth would administer scopolamine butylbromide or scopolamine hydrobromide. In conclusion, more Japanese palliative care physicians thought that anticholinergic agents might be effective for treating Type-1 death rattle rather than Type-2. Further clinical trials of these agents are needed.
Objectives: Facilitating a high quality of death is an important aspect of comfort care for patients in ICUs. The quality of death in ICUs has been rarely reported in Asian countries. Although Korea is currently in the early stage after the implementation of the “well-dying” law, this seems to have a considerable effect on practice. In this study, we aimed to understand the status of quality of death in Korean ICUs as perceived by medical staff, and to elucidate factors affecting patient quality of death.
Design: A multicenter cross-sectional survey study.
Setting: Medical ICUs of two tertiary-care teaching hospitals and two secondary-care hospitals.
Patients: Deceased patients from June 2016 to May 2017.
Interventions: Relevant medical staff were asked to complete a translated Quality of Dying and Death questionnaire within 48 hours after a patient’s death. A higher Quality of Dying and Death score (ranged from 0 to 100) corresponded to a better quality of death.
Measurements and Main Results: A total of 416 completed questionnaires were obtained from 177 medical staff (66 doctors and 111 nurses) of 255 patients. All 20 items of the Quality of Dying and Death received low scores. Quality of death perceived by nurses was better than that perceived by doctors (33.1 ± 18.4 vs 29.7 ± 15.3; p = 0.042). Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and using inotropes within 24 hours before death were associated with poorer quality of death, whereas using analgesics was associated with better quality of death.
Conclusions: The quality of death of patients in Korean ICUs was considerably poorer than reported in other countries. Provision of appropriate comfort care, avoidance of unnecessary life-sustaining care, and permission for more frequent visits from patients’ families may correspond to better quality of death in Korean medical ICUs. It is also expected that the new legislation would positively affect the quality of death in Korean ICUs.
Background: Although statements on the competencies required from physicians working within palliative care exist, these requirements have not been described within different levels of palliative care provision by multi-professional workshops, comprising representatives from working life. Therefore, the aim of this study was to describe the competencies required from physicians working within palliative care from the perspectives of multi-professional groups of representatives from working life.
Methods: A qualitative approach, using a workshop method, was conducted, wherein the participating professionals and representatives of patient organizations discussed the competencies that are required in palliative care, before reaching and documenting a consensus. The data (n = 222) was collected at workshops held in different parts of Finland and it was analyzed using a qualitative content analysis method.
Results: The description of the competencies required of every physician working within palliative care at the general level included 13 main categories and 50 subcategories in total. ‘Competence in advanced care planning and decision-making’ was the main category which was obtained from the highest number of reduced expressions from the original data (f = 125). Competence in social interactions was another strong main category (f = 107). In specialist level data, six main categories with 22 subcategories in total were found. ‘Competence in complex symptom management’ was the main category which was obtained from the biggest number of reduced expressions (f = 46). A notable association between general level and specialist level data was related to networking, since one of the general level categories was ‘Competence in consultations and networking’ (f = 34) and one of the specialist level categories was ‘Competence to offer consultative and educational support to other professionals’ (f = 30). Moreover, part of the specialist level results were subcategories which belonged to the main categories produced from the general level data.
Conclusions: The competencies described in this study emphasize decision-making, social interactions and networking. It is important to listen to the voices of the working-life representatives when planning curricula. Moreover, the views of the working-life representatives inform how the competencies gained during their education meet the challenges of the ordinary work.
The need for palliative medicine has grown exponentially with the emergence of COVID-19. The current pandemic presents an opportunity for surgeons interested in surgical palliative care to establish themselves as the surgical palliative care champion in their group. Multimedia resources for skill acquisition and community integration are referenced.
Objectives: Research suggests that clinicians are not very accurate at prognosticating in palliative care. The ‘horizon effect’ suggests that accuracy ought to be better when the survival of patients is shorter. The aim of this study was to determine the accuracy of specialist palliative care clinicians at identifying which patients are likely to die within 72 hours.
Design In a secondary data analysis of a prospective observational study, specialist palliative care doctors and nurses (in a hospice and a hospital palliative care team) provided survival predictions (yes/no/uncertain) about which patients would die within 72 hours.
Results: Survival predictions were obtained for 49 patients. A prediction from a nurse was obtained for 37/49 patients. A prediction from a doctor was obtained for 46/49 patients. In total, 23 (47%)/49 patients actually died within 72 hours of assessment. Nurses accurately predicted the outcome in 27 (73%)/37 cases. Doctors accurately predicted the outcome in 30 (65%)/46 cases. When comparing predictions given on the same patients (27 [55%]/49), nurses were slightly better at recognising imminent death than doctors (positive predictive value (the proportion of patients who died when the clinician predicted death)=79% vs 60%, respectively). The difference in c-statistics (nurses 0.82 vs doctors 0.63) was not significant (p=0.13).
Conclusion: Even when patients are in the terminal phase and close to death, clinicians are not very good at predicting how much longer they will survive. Further research is warranted to improve prognostication in this population.
Background: Multisource feedback provides ratings of a trainee doctor’s performance from a range of assessors and enables 360 degree feedback on communication skills and team working behaviours. It is a tool used throughout palliative medicine training in the UK. There are limited data on the value of multisource feedback from a palliative medicine trainee perspective.
Aim: To study the views of palliative medicine trainees regarding multisource feedback as an educational tool to develop communication skills.
Design: A multimodal study encompassing a focus group and questionnaire mailed to all deanery palliative doctors.
Setting/participants: All palliative medicine trainees within a UK training deanery.
Results: Over half of responding trainees thought multisource feedback had little or no impact on their clinical practice. Improvements in delivery of multisource feedback to maximise learning were identified, including skilled feedback and facilitation by educational supervisors.
Conclusions: Despite multisource feedback currently having limited benefits, a number of recommendations are suggested to improve this.
Objective: This study aimed to clarify the experiences and hidden needs of older patients with advanced cancer, their families and their physicians in palliative chemotherapy decision-making.
Materials and Methods: We conducted in-depth qualitative individual interviews with content analysis. Patients who were diagnosed as having advanced cancer, were aged =70 years (n = 15, median [range] = 77 [70–82] years) and had volunteered to receive palliative chemotherapy within the past 6 months were enrolled. Their families and physicians were also interviewed.
Results: The following four themes were identified: (i) physician’s awareness of paternalism; (ii) readiness for communication of serious news; (iii) spiritual care need assessment and (iv) support as a team. The patients and families expected physicians to demonstrate paternalism in their decision-making because they were unconfident about their self-determination capability. Although the physicians were aware of this expectation, they encountered difficulties in recommending treatment and communicating with older patients. The patients had spiritual pain since the time of diagnosis. Psychological issues were rarely discussed during decision-making and treatment, triggering feelings of isolation in the patients and their families.
Conclusion: Older patients and their families expected a paternalistic approach by the physicians for palliative chemotherapy decision-making. The physicians found it difficult to offer treatment options because of older patient diversity and limitations in evidence-based strategies. Therefore multidisciplinary approaches and evidence-based decision support aids are warranted. Because older patients and their families often have unexpressed psychological burdens including unmet spiritual needs, medical professionals should provide psychological care from the time of diagnosis.
Context: Doctors caring for patients with life-limiting illness are often exposed to emotional distress.
Objectives: We aimed to explore the experiences and perceptions of junior doctors working full time in a palliative care rotation. We examined the lessons junior doctors learnt in managing their emotions as they face patients' death on a daily basis.
Methods: We conducted a qualitative study with seven focus group discussions involving 21 junior doctors (medical officers and residents). Data were analyzed using qualitative thematic analysis to identify the themes related to the perceived challenges of these junior doctors and how they managed the struggles. Interviews were conducted with junior doctors who spent at least two months in a palliative care unit in a tertiary hospital or an inpatient hospice.
Results: junior doctors caring for dying patients in a palliative care rotation faced internal conflicts. Conflicting feelings arose because of differing expectations from their preconceived notions of their roles as doctors. Two main themes of internal struggles were professional distancing and emotional detachment as well as prognostic uncertainty and when to withhold and withdraw medical treatments. Coping strategies that helped included mentoring and role modeling provided by palliative care physicians, reframing their care experiences and reflection to find meaning in their work.
Conclusion: A palliative care rotation exposes junior doctors to emotionally overwhelming experiences. With proper guidance, this exposure is useful in teaching junior doctors important coping strategies, allowing learning to occur at a deeper level.
Background: Family meetings are often conducted in palliative care, but there is no universal agreed or accepted model. A new model of Patient-Centered Family Meetings is proposed whereby the patient sets the agenda.
Aim: To seek palliative care clinicians' perceptions and experiences of Patient-Centered Family Meetings (“Meetings”) and their acceptability and feasibility in the inpatient specialist palliative care setting.
Design: A qualitative study used semistructured interviews. Theoretical and procedural direction was taken from grounded theory with thematic content analysis using the constant comparative method.
Setting/Participants: Interviews were conducted with clinicians (n = 10) at the intervention site who had participated in a Meeting.
Results: Four themes were identified: (1) a patient-set agenda gives patients a “voice”; (2) a patient-set agenda and the Meeting model enhances clinicians' understanding of patients and families; (3) the Meeting model was perceived to be acceptable; and (4) the Meeting model was perceived to be only feasible for selected patients.
Conclusion: Clinicians perceived that a patient-set meeting agenda with defined questions enhanced their knowledge of the patient's issues and their understanding of the patient and their family's needs. The patients' most important issues often differed from the clinicians' expectations of what might be important to individual patients. There were contrasting views about the acceptability and feasibility of these Meetings as standard practice due to clinician time constraints and the Meeting not being required or relevant to all patients. Given the perceived benefits, the identification of patients and families who would most benefit is an important research priority.
Purpose: Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) decision-making in severely ill patients presents many difficult medical, ethical, and legal challenges. The primary aim of this study was to explore cancer patients’ and health care professionals’ attitudes regarding DNR decision-making authority and timing of the decision.
Methods: This study was a questionnaire survey among Danish cancer patients and their attending physicians and nurses in an oncology outpatient setting. Potential differences between patients’, physicians’, and nurses’ answers to the questionnaire were analyzed using Fisher’s exact test.
Results: Responses from 904 patients, 59 physicians, and 160 nurses were analyzed. The majority in all three groups agreed that DNR decisions should be made in collaboration between physician and patient. However, one-third of the patients answered that the patient alone should make the decision regarding DNR, which contrasts with the physicians’ and nurses’ attitudes, 0% and 6% pointing to the patient as sole decision-maker, respectively. In case of disagreement between patient and physician, a majority of both patients (66%) and physicians (86%) suggested themselves as the ultimate decision-maker. Additionally, 43% of patients but only 19% of physicians preferred the DNR discussion being brought up early in the course of the disease.
Conclusions: With regard to the decisional role of patient vs. physician and the timing of the DNR discussion, we found a substantial discrepancy between the attitudes of cancer patients and physicians. This discrepancy calls for a greater awareness and discussion of this sensitive topic among both health care professionals and the public.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the country, I am proud to be a part of a community of physicians selflessly stepping up to the call to help. Palliative medicine has taken on a vital role in this crisis, in leading discussions on goals of care and taking over the care of those who are dying of this disease. As a palliative medicine fellow, I feel a palpable energy among my colleagues and mentors as we rise up to this challenge. We lead ethics committees on codes and triage committees for ventilator allocation if we were to face a shortage—a situation that would have been inconceivable just a few weeks ago. Now more than ever, there is a common sense of purpose among health care providers: we are all in this fight together. Yet behind this common purpose, many of us have a common fear. Not only do we fear for our own health, but we also fear for the health of our families that we come home to at night.
Dr. Wakam: I’m 5 hours into my ICU shift at a community hospital in Detroit when the results of another arterial blood gas return. My patient has been hospitalized for 3 days and is Covid-19–positive. Over the past 12 hours, his treatment has progressed from intubation, to prone positioning on 100% fractional inspired oxygen, to medically induced paralysis, and finally to bilevel ventilation. The results from the arterial blood gas are dismal: pH 7.19, pCO2 70.1, pO2 63.7, HCO3 26.0. He has already experienced episodes of profound hypoxia when we try to rotate him into a supine position, and his heart has begun to show signs of strain, with periods of atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response and nonsustained runs of ventricular tachycardia. A request to transfer the patient for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is denied. It’s 11 p.m., and I’m worried that my patient won’t survive until morning.
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L'ancien ministre de la Santé propose une réflexion sur l'avenir de la médecine et notamment l'impact de l'intelligence artificielle, de la biotechnologie, des neurosciences, des capteurs connectés ou des impressions de tissus en 3D.
BACKGROUND: Despite a broad consensus and recommendations, numerous international reports or studies have shown the difficulties of implementing palliative care within healthcare services. The objective of this study was to understand the palliative approach of registered nurses in hospital medical and surgical care units and their use of mobile palliative care teams.
METHODS: Qualitative study using individual in depth semi-structured interviews and focus group of registered nurses. Data were analyzed using a semiopragmatic phenomenological analysis. Expert nurses of mobile palliative care team carried out this study. 20 registered nurses from three different hospitals in France agreed to participate.
RESULTS: Nurses recognize their role as being witnesses to the patient's experience through their constant presence. This is in line with their professional values and gives them an "alert role" that can anticipate a patient-centered palliative approach. The physician's positioning on palliative care plays a key role in its implementation. The lack of recognition of the individual role of the nurse leads to a questioning of her/his professional values, causing inappropriate behavior and distress. According to nurses, "rethinking care within a team environment" allows for the anticipation of a patient-centered palliative approach. Mobile Palliative Care Team highlights the major role of physicians-nurses "balance" while providing personal and professional support.
CONCLUSIONS: The Physician's positioning and attitude toward palliative approach sets the tone for its early implementation and determines the behavior of different staff members within healthcare service. "Recognition at work", specifically "recognition of the individual role of nurse" is an essential concept for understanding what causes the delay in the implementation of a palliative approach. Interprofessional training (physicians and nurses) could optimize sharing expertise. Registered nurses consider MPCT as a "facilitating intermediary" within the healthcare service improving communication. Restoring a balance in sharing care and decision between physicians and other caregivers lead care teams to an anticipated and patient-centered palliative approach according to guidelines.
BACKGROUND: Insufficient knowledge of radiotherapy among hospice and palliative medicine (HPM) physicians is a barrier to providing optimal palliative care. We sought to assess the impact of a palliative radiotherapy curriculum on the knowledge, attitudes, and practice behaviors of HPM fellows at a single institution.
METHODS: We implemented a palliative radiotherapy didactic course for HPM fellows. The course consisted of three one-hour lectures and a guided tour of the radiation oncology suite. Anonymous pre-post was performed using descriptive statistics with P values calculated using the Wilcoxon rank-sum test with continuity correction.
RESULTS: All eligible fellows completed the questionnaires. Prior to the course, all fellows agreed that possessing a working knowledge of palliative radiotherapy was important yet lacked confidence in this domain. Fellow-reported confidence increased significantly on post-course assessment, as did the mean score on objective knowledge assessment. This increased knowledge was retained on longitudinal evaluation at three months. The curricular intervention also impacted fellow-reported practice behaviors and attitudes. In the three months following the intervention, fellows were more likely to refer patients for palliative radiotherapy, more likely to collaborate with radiation oncologists, and more likely to view radiation oncologists as members of a comprehensive palliative care team.
CONCLUSIONS: This feasibility study suggests that a brief curricular intervention can impact HPM fellows' knowledge about, attitudes towards, and practice behaviors associated with the use of radiotherapy in the palliative management of advanced cancer patients.
Palliative Care (PC) physicians are vulnerable for burnout given the nature of practice. The burnout frequency may be variable and reported between 24 to 38 % across different countries.
OBJECTIVE: The main objective of our study was to determine the frequency of burnout among PC physicians participating in PC Continuing Medical Education (CME) course.
METHODS: A survey including the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) - General along with 41 custom questions were administered to determine the frequency of burnout among physicians attending the 2018 Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) Board Review Course.
RESULTS: Of 110 physicians, 91 (83%) completed the survey. The median age was 48 years with 65% being females, 81% married, 46% in community practice, 38% in practice for 6–15 years. PC was practiced =50% of the time by 62%, and 76% were doing clinical work. About 73 (80%) reported that PC is appreciated at their work, 58 (64%) reported insurance to be a burden, and 58 (64%) reported that the electronic medical record was a burden. About 82 (90%) felt optimistic about continuing PC in future. Maslach Burnout Inventory results suggest that 35 (38%) participants reported at least one symptom of burnout. Only being single/separated showed trend toward significance with burnout (P = 0.056).
CONCLUSION: Burnout among PC physicians who attended a board review course was 38%. Being single/separated showed trend towards association with burnout. Physicians who choose to attend CME may have unique motivating characteristics allowing them to better cope with stress and avoid burnout.
Background: Palliative systematic treatment offers uncertain and often limited benefits, and the burden can be high. Hence, treatment decisions require shared decision making (SDM). This trial examined the independent and combined effect of an oncologist training and a patient communication aid on SDM.
Methods: In this multicenter randomized controlled trial with four parallel arms (2016–2018), oncologists (n = 31) were randomized to receive SDM communication skills training or not. The training consisted of a reader, two group sessions, a booster session, and a consultation room tool (10 hours). Patients (n = 194) with advanced cancer were randomized to receive a patient communication aid or not. The aid consisted of education on SDM, a question prompt list, and a value clarification exercise. The primary outcome was observed SDM as rated by blinded observers from audio-recorded consultations. Secondary outcomes included patient-reported SDM, patient and oncologist satisfaction, patients’ decisional conflict, patient quality of life 3 months after consultation, consultation duration, and the decision made.
Results: The oncologist training had a large positive effect on observed SDM (Cohen's d = 1.12) and on patient-reported SDM (d = 0.73). The patient communication aid did not improve SDM. The combination of interventions did not add to the effect of training oncologists only. The interventions affected neither patient nor oncologist satisfaction with the consultation nor patients’ decisional conflict, quality of life, consultation duration, or the decision made.
Conclusion: Training medical oncologists in SDM about palliative systemic treatment improves both observed and patient-reported SDM. A patient communication aid does not. The incorporation of skills training in (continuing) educational programs for medical oncologists is likely to stimulate the widely advocated uptake of shared decision making in clinical practice. Trial registration. Netherlands Trial Registry NTR 5489.
Implications for Practice: Treatment for advanced cancer offers uncertain and often small benefits, and the burden can be high. Hence, treatment decisions require shared decision making (SDM). SDM is increasingly advocated for ethical reasons and for its beneficial effect on patient outcomes. Few initiatives to stimulate SDM are evaluated in robust designs. This randomized controlled trial shows that training medical oncologists improves both observed and patient-reported SDM in clinical encounters (n = 194). A preconsultation communication aid for patients did not add to the effect of training oncologists. SDM training effectively changes oncologists’ practice and should be implemented in (continuing) educational programs.
We do not know how much clinical physicians carrying out clinical trials in oncology and haematology struggle with ethical concerns. To our knowledge, no empirical research exists on these questions in a Nordic context. Therefore, this study aims to learn what kinds of ethical challenges physicians in Sweden, Denmark and Finland (n = 29) face when caring for patients in clinical trials; and what strategies, if any, they have developed to deal with them. The main findings were that clinical cancer trials pose ethical challenges related to autonomy issues, unreasonable hope for benefits and the therapeutic misconception. Nevertheless, some physicians expressed that struggling with such challenges was not of great concern. This conveys a culture of hope where health care professionals and patients uphold hope and mutually support belief in clinical trials. This culture being implicit, physicians need opportunities to deliberately reflect over the characteristics that should constitute this culture.
BACKGROUND, AIM, AND HYPOTHESIS: This randomized controlled trial aimed to compare the impact of a physician's attire on the perceptions of patients with cancer of compassion, professionalism, and physician preference. Our hypothesis was that patients would perceive the physician with formal attire as more compassionate than the physician wearing casual attire.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: One hundred five adult follow-up patients with advanced cancer were randomized to watch two standardized, 3-minute video vignettes with the same script, depicting a routine physician-patient clinic encounter. Videos included a physician in formal attire with tie and buttoned-up white coat and casual attire without a tie or white coat. Actors, patients, and investigators were all blinded to the purpose and videos watched, respectively. After each video, patients completed validated questionnaires rating their perception of physician compassion, professionalism, and their overall preference for the physician.
RESULTS: There were no significant differences between formal and casual attire for compassion (median [interquartile range], 25 [10-31] vs. 20 [8-27]; p = .31) and professionalism (17 [13-21] vs. 18 [14-22]; p = .42). Thirty percent of patients preferred formal attire, 31% preferred casual attire, and 38% had no preference. Subgroup analysis did not show statistically significant differences among different cohorts of age, sex, marital status, and education level.
CONCLUSION: Doctors' attire did not affect the perceptions of patients with cancer of physician's level of compassion and professionalism, nor did it influence the patients' preference for their doctor or their trust and confidence in the doctor's ability to provide care. There is a need for more studies in this area of communications skills.
Clinical trial identification number. NCT03168763
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The significance of physician attire as a means of nonverbal communication has not been well characterized. It is an important element to consider, as patient preferences vary geographically, are influenced by cultural beliefs, and may vary based on particular care settings. Previous studies consisted of nonblinded surveys and found increasing confidence in physicians wearing a professional white coat. Unfortunately, there are no randomized controlled trials, to the authors' knowledge, to confirm the survey findings. In this randomized, blinded clinical trial the researchers found that physician's attire did not affect patients' perception of the physician's level of compassion and professionalism. Attire also did not influence the patients' preferences for their doctor or their trust and confidence in the doctor's ability to provide care.