AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: The proposed study aimed to answer the following question: What communication issues do nurses find challenging when caring for people with life-limiting illness?
BACKGROUND: Evidence suggests that attitudes, skills and knowledge about how nurses communicate effectively with patients and their families could be improved. However, the literature predominantly focuses on nurses working in oncology and the medical profession.
DESIGN: A qualitative descriptive design was used.
METHODS: Focus groups were conducted with 39 nurses from three wards within a regional healthcare organisation in Victoria, Australia. Data were analysed using thematic content analysis. The COREQ checklist was used to document reporting of the study.
RESULTS: In their view, nurses have the potential to develop a strong bond with patients and their families. Three key themes were identified: (a) feeling unskilled to have difficult conversations with patients who have life-limiting illness; (b) interacting with family members adds complexity to care of patients who have life-limiting illness; and (c) organisational factors impede nurses' capacity to have meaningful conversations with patients and their families.
CONCLUSIONS: Caring for individuals with life-limiting illness is complex and often occurs in an emotionally charged environment. However, nurses report being hampered by time restraints and lack of information about the patient's condition and goals of care. Limitations in conversation structure and a comprehensive range of core communication skills affect their ability to confidently engage in conversations, particularly when they are responding to prognostic questions.
RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Whilst nurses are responsible for performing technical skills, they can maximise care by developing a trusting relationship with patients and their relatives. Increased acuity limits the time nurses have to talk with patients. In addition, they lack confidence to deal with difficult questions. Specific training may increase nurses' confidence and efficiency when communicating with patients and their families.
OBJECTIVES: Report the use of an objective tool, UK Gold Standards Framework (GSF) criteria, to describe the prevalence, recognition and outcomes of patients with palliative care needs in an Australian acute health setting. The rationale for this is to enable hospital doctors to identify patients who should have a patient-centred discussion about goals of care in hospital.
DESIGN: Prospective, observational, cohort study.
PARTICIPANTS: Adult in-patients during two separate 24h periods.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Prevalence of in-patients with GSF criteria, documentation of treatment limitations, hospital and 1 year survival, admission and discharge destination and multivariate regression analysis of factors associated with the presence of hospital treatment limitations and 1 year survival.
RESULTS: Of 626 in-patients reviewed, 171 (27.3%) had at least one GSF criterion, with documentation of a treatment limitation discussion in 60 (30.5%) of those patients who had GSF criteria. Hospital mortality was 9.9%, 1 year mortality 50.3% and 3-year mortality 70.2% in patients with GSF criteria. One-year mortality was highest in patients with GSF cancer (73%), renal failure (67%) and heart failure (60%) criteria. Multivariate analysis revealed age, hospital length of stay and presence of the GSF chronic obstructive pulmonary disease criteria were independently associated with the likelihood of an in-hospital treatment limitation. Non-survivors at 3 years were more likely to have a GSF cancer (25% vs 6%, p=0.004), neurological (10% vs 3%, p=0.04), or frailty (45% vs 3%, p=0.04) criteria. After multivariate logistic regression GSF cancer criteria, renal failure criteria and the presence of two or more GSF clinical criteria were independently associated with increased risk of death at 3 years. Patients returning home to live reduced from 69% (preadmission) to 27% after discharge.
CONCLUSIONS: The use of an objective clinical tool identifies a high prevalence of patients with palliative care needs in the acute tertiary Australian hospital setting, with a high 1 year mortality and poor return to independence in this population. The low rate of documentation of discussions about treatment limitations in this population suggests palliative care needs are not recognised and discussed in the majority of patients.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: 11/121.
OBJECTIVES: Report the implementation, user evaluation and key outcome measures of an educational intervention-the iValidate educational programme-designed to improve engagement in shared decision-making by health professionals caring for patients with life-limiting illness (LLI).
DESIGN: Prospective, descriptive, cohort study.
PARTICIPANTS: Health professionals working in acute care settings caring for patients with an LLI.
MAIN OUTCOMES MEASURED: Participant evaluation of learning outcomes for communication skills and shared decision-making; demographic data of participants attending education workshops; and documentation of patients with LLI goals of management, including patient values and care decision based on area in acute care and seniority of doctor.
RESULTS: The programme was well accepted by participants. Participant evaluations demonstrated self-reported improved confidence in the areas of patient identification, information gathering to ascertain patient values and shared decision-making. There was strong agreement with the course-enhanced knowledge of core communication skills and advanced skills such as discussing mismatched agendas.
CONCLUSIONS: We described the educational pedagogy, implementation and key outcome measures of the iValidate education programme, an intervention designed to improve person-centred care for patients with an LLI. A targeted education programme could produce cultural and institutional change for vulnerable populations within a healthcare institution. A concurrent research programme suggests effectiveness within the current service and the potential for transferability.
Objectives: To describe the effect of a communication skills training programme on patient-centred goals of care documentation and clinical outcomes in critically ill patients with life-limiting illnesses (LLI) referred for intensive care management.
Methods: Prospective before-and-after cohort study in a tertiary teaching hospital in Australia. The population was 222 adult patients with LLI referred to the intensive care unit (ICU). The study was divided into two periods, before (1 May to 31 July 2015) and after (15 September to 15December 2015) the intervention. The intervention was a 2-day, small group, simulated-patient, communication skills course, and process of care for patients with LLI. The primary outcome was documentation of patient-centred goals of care discussion (PCD) within 48 hours of referral to the ICU. Secondary outcomes included clinical outcomes and 90-day mortality.
Results: The intervention was associated with increased documentation of a PCD from 50% to 69% (p=0.004) and 43% to 94% (p<0.0001) in patients deceased by day 90. A significant decrease in critical care as the choice of resuscitation goal (61% vs 42%, p=0.02) was observed. Although there was no decrease in admission to ICU, there was a significant decrease in medical emergency team call prevalence (87% vs 73%, p=0.009). The cancer and organ failure groups had a significant decrease in 90-day mortality (75% vs 44%, p=0.02; 42% vs 16%, p=0.01), and the frailty group had a significant decrease in 90-day readmissions (48% vs 19%, p=0.003).
Conclusions: The intervention was associated with increased PCD documentation and decrease in the choice of critical care as the resuscitation goal. Admissions to ICU did not decrease, and although limited by study design, condition-specific trajectory changes, clinical interventions and outcomes warrant further study.