Despite the frequency, complexity, and intensity of communication that occurs between nurses, patients, and families, palliative care nurses often struggle with end-of-life communication. The primary goal of this quality improvement project was to increase nurse confidence and satisfaction engaging in end-of-life communication following the implementation of the COMFORT model; the secondary goal was to improve patient-family satisfaction with care provided in the palliative care unit. Fourteen palliative care nurses attended a 4-hour course to learn the tenets of the COMFORT model and practice through role-play exercises. A repeated-measures design was used to measure nurse confidence and satisfaction precourse, postcourse, and 3 months postcourse. A between-subjects pre-post design was used to compare family satisfaction survey scores in the 3-month period before versus the 3 months after implementation. Analysis revealed a statistically significant increase in all measures of nurse confidence and satisfaction from precourse to postcourse and from precourse to 3 months postcourse. There was no statistical difference between the family satisfaction survey scores before versus after training, although survey results were generally high at baseline and most respondents rated palliative services with the best possible response. This project demonstrates that COMFORT model training increased confidence and satisfaction of palliative care nurses engaged in end-of-life communication and demonstrates potential for use in other clinical areas that do not specialize in end-of-life nursing (eg, critical care) but find themselves in need of the communications skills to address end-of-life care.
BACKGROUND: Integrating palliative care into intensive care units (ICUs) requires involvement of bedside nurses, who report inadequate education in palliative care.
OBJECTIVE: To implement and evaluate a palliative care professional development program for ICU bedside nurses.
METHODS: From May 2013 to January 2015, palliative care advanced practice nurses and nurse educators in 5 academic medical centers completed a 3-day train-the-trainer program followed by 2 years of mentoring to implement the initiative. The program consisted of 8-hour communication workshops for bedside nurses and structured rounds in ICUs, where nurse leaders coached bedside nurses in identifying and addressing palliative care needs. Primary outcomes were nurses' ratings of their palliative care communication skills in surveys, and nurses' identification of palliative care needs during coaching rounds.
RESULTS: Each center held at least 6 workshops, training 428 bedside nurses. Nurses rated their skill level higher after the workshop for 15 tasks (eg, responding to family distress, ensuring families understand information in family meetings, all P < .01 vs preworkshop). Coaching rounds in each ICU took a mean of 3 hours per month. For 82% of 1110 patients discussed in rounds, bedside nurses identified palliative care needs and created plans to address them.
CONCLUSIONS: Communication skills training workshops increased nurses' ratings of their palliative care communication skills. Coaching rounds supported nurses in identifying and addressing palliative care needs.