Excellence in palliative care demands attention to the multidimensional aspects of patient and family suffering, yet too few psycho-oncology professionals report adequate preparation in this vital area.
A total of 148 competitively selected psychologists, social workers, and spiritual care professionals participated in intensive educational courses to enhance their palliative care delivery, leadership, and advocacy skills. Extensive process and outcome evaluations measured the effectiveness of this educational program.
To date, 2 national courses have been completed. The courses received strong overall evaluations, with participants rating increased confidence in defined palliative care skills.
The initial results of this innovative National Cancer Institute-funded transdisciplinary training for psycho-oncology professionals affirm the need and feasibility of the program. See the Advocating for Clinical Excellence Project Web site (www.cityofhope.org/ACEproject) for additional course information.
The authors evaluated the feasibility of screening for palliative care needs in outpatients attending one GI oncology practice specializing in colorectal cancer and neuroendocrine tumors.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network's (NCCN) palliative care (PC) guidelines recommend screening all patients for PC issues at the first visit with their oncologist and at subsequent, clinically relevant times. Criteria for referral to a PC specialist are also part of the guideline. We evaluated the feasibility of screening for PC needs in outpatients attending one GI oncology practice specializing in colorectal cancer and neuroendocrine tumors.
All patients attending clinic during a 3-week period were screened by the office practice nurse (OPN). A one-page screening tool based on the NCCN guidelines was developed, giving a score from 0 to 13. The OPN also evaluated the NCCN referral criteria.
There were 152 clinic visits by 125 patients during the surveillance period; 119 were screened. Median age was 61 years; half were male. Eighty percent had colorectal cancer, and two thirds had advanced disease. Screening took approximately 3 to 5 minutes per patient. Depending on the PC definition used, between 7% and 17% of patients screened positive; all met the NCCN referral criteria. Psychosocial distress was commoner than physical symptoms. The maximum screening score was 8. A cut point of 5 had the best predictive value for specialist referral, and would result in 13% patients having PC consultations.
Screening identified 7% to 17% of patients in this busy clinic as having PC issues and 13% who might benefit from specialist referral. But even this simple method adds considerably to the clinic workload, so the benefits of implementing routine screening need to be carefully evaluated.
Unlike in other nations, in Canada palliative care has its origins in university hospitals. It has subsequently developed in a few Canadian schools as an academic discipline closely linked with oncology programs. Although this model is successful, other faculties of medicine and cancer centres have been slow to emulate it. Today, the situation is rapidly changing, and both palliative care and oncology professionals are re-examining the manifest need for collaborative efforts in patient care, research and education. Palliative care must be regarded as an essential component of cancer care, its principles must be applied throughout the course of the illness and, as in other phases of cancer control, palliative care should be regarded as an exercise in prevention--prevention of suffering. This article discusses practical applications that flow from acceptance of these concepts.
Palliative care has been proposed for progressive non-cancer conditions but there have been few evaluations of service developments. We analysed recruitment, compliance and follow-up data of a fast track (or wait list control) randomised controlled trial of a new palliative care service – a design not previously used to assess palliative care.
An innovative palliative care service (comprising a consultant in palliative medicine, a clinical nurse specialist, an administrator and a psychosocial worker) was delivered to people severely affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), and their carers, in southeast London. Our design followed the MRC Framework for the Evaluation of Complex Interventions. In phase II we conducted randomised controlled trial, of immediate referral to the service (fast-track) versus a 12-week wait (standard best practice). Main outcome measures were: compliance (the extent the trial protocol was adhered to), recruitment (target 50 patients), attrition and missing data rates; trial outcomes were Palliative Care Outcome Scale and MS Impact Scale.
69 patients were referred, 52 entered the trial (26 randomised to each arm), 5 refused consent and 12 were excluded from the trial for other reasons, usually illness or urgent needs, achieving our target numbers. 25/26 fast track and 21/26 standard best practice patients completed the trial, resulting in 217/225 (96%) of possible interviews completed, 87% of which took place in the patient's home. Main reasons for failure to interview and/or attrition were death or illness. There were three deaths in the standard best practice group and one in the fast-track group during the trial. At baseline there were no differences between groups. Missing data for individual questionnaire items were small (median 0, mean 1–5 items out of 56+ items per interview), not associated with any patient or carer characteristics or with individual questionnaires, but were associated with interviewer.
This is the first time a fast track (or wait list) randomised trial has been reported in palliative care. We found it achieved good recruitment and is a feasible method to evaluate palliative care services when patients are expected to live longer than 3–6 months. Home interviews are needed for a trial of this kind; interviewers need careful recruitment, training and supervision; and there should be careful separation from the clinical service of the control patients to prevent accidental contamination.
Clinical Trials.Gov NCT00364963
Clinical depression is highly prevalent yet under-detected and under-treated in palliative care settings and is associated with a number of adverse medical and psychological outcomes for patients and their family members. This article presents a study protocol to evaluate a training intervention for non-physician palliative care staff to improve the recognition of depression and provide support for depressed patients and their family members. Details of the hypotheses and expected outcomes, study design, training program development and evaluation measures are described.
Methods and Design
A randomised controlled trial will be implemented across two palliative care services to evaluate the "Training program for professional carers to recognise and manage depression in palliative care settings". Pre-, post- and three-month follow-up data will be collected to assess: the impact of the training on the knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy and perceived barriers of palliative care staff when working with depression; referral rates for depression; and changes to staff practices. Quantitative and qualitative methods, in the form of self-report questionnaires and interviews with staff and family members, will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.
This study will determine the effectiveness of an intervention that aims to respond to the urgent need for innovative programs to target depression in the palliative care setting. The expected outcome of this study is the validation of an evidence-based training program to improve staff recognition and appropriate referrals for depression, as well as improve psychosocial support for depressed patients and their family members.
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register (ANZCTR): ACTRN12610000183088
In Australia, many people ageing in their own homes are becoming increasingly frail and unwell, approaching the end of life. A palliative approach, which adheres to palliative care principles, is often appropriate. These principles provide a framework for proactive and holistic care in which quality of life and of dying is prioritised, as is support for families. A palliative approach can be delivered by the general practitioner working with the community aged care team, in collaboration with family carers. Support from specialist palliative care services is available if necessary.
The Guidelines for a Palliative Approach for Aged Care in the Community Setting were published by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing to inform practice in this area. There are three resource documents. The main document provides practical evidence based guidelines, good practice points, tools, and links to resources. This document is written for general practitioners, nurses, social workers, therapists, pastoral care workers, and other health professionals and responded to needs identified during national consultation. Evidence based guidelines were underpinned by systematic reviews of the research literature. Good practice points were developed from literature reviews and expert opinion. Two ‘plain English’ booklets were developed in a process involving consumer consultation; one is for older people and their families, the other for care workers.
The resources are intended to facilitate home care that acknowledges and plans for the client’s deteriorating functional trajectory and inevitable death. At a time when hospitals and residential aged care facilities are under enormous pressure as the population ages, such a planned approach makes sense for the health system as a whole. The approach also makes sense for older people who wish to die in their own homes. Family needs are recognised and addressed. Unnecessary hospitalisations or residential placements and clinically futile interventions are also minimised.
Evidence-based health care; guidelines; palliative care; aged care; community care
A narration of the development of staff, infrastructure and buildings in the various parts of the country is given in this paper. The role of universities and other institutions of learning, public health, palliative care, nuclear medicine and cancer registries is described together with the networking that has been developed between the government, non-governmental organisations and private hospitals. The training of skilled manpower and the commencement of the Master of Clinical Oncology in the University of Malaya is highlighted. Efforts taken to improve the various aspects of cancer control which includes prevention of cancer, early detection, treatment and palliative care are covered. It is vital to ensure that cancer care services must be accessible and affordable throughout the entire health system, from the primary care level up to the centres for tertiary care, throughout the whole country.
History; cancer; radiotherapy; oncology; Malaysia
The optimal setting for interprofessional education (IPE) for prelicensure health care trainees is unclear, especially in a field as complex and emotionally challenging as oncology. In this article, the authors describe the initiation of the Cross Cancer Institute Multidisciplinary Summer Studentship in Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology, a 6-week, multidisciplinary team-based clinical placement in supportive care, designed to incorporate features of best practice cooperative learning.
A steering committee established goals, structure, eligibility criteria, application process, funding, and a consensus approach to instruction and evaluation for the IPE program. Studentship components included mandatory and flexible clinical time, an exploratory investigation, discussion groups, and a presentation. Two senior students per iteration were selected from clinical nutrition, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, respiratory therapy, social work, and speech–language pathology applicants. These students completed questionnaires investigating their views of their own and others’ professions at baseline, at the end of the rotation, and 6 months after the studentship.
Eight students from medicine, clinical nutrition, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and speech–language pathology have participated to date. At the elective’s end, students have described a more positive view of multidisciplinary team practice, with each participating discipline perceived as both more caring and more subservient than at baseline. In general, changes in attitudes were maintained 6 months after completion of the placement.
This 6-week multidisciplinary placement is feasible, successful, and potentially transferable to other academic settings. The results of this study suggest that even over as short a period as 6 weeks, objective attitudinal and perceptual change is seen.
interprofessional education; multidisciplinary team; clinical placement; perceptual change; evaluation
Australia is a very large country with a relatively small, diverse population. Palliative care is delivered by a range of professionals, from general (family) practitioners and community care nurses to large tertiary referral palliative care services. A national strategy provides a service development framework that informs the provision of these services. The National Palliative Care Program has provided extensive service improvement in the past decade. Challenges to improving the delivery of palliative care center around meeting the requirements of people with nonmalignant life-limiting illnesses; growing the specialist workforce; maintaining the skills of the primary care workforce; and providing palliative care to special populations such as the aged, indigenous Australians, non–English-speaking Australians, and children.
Australia; health policy; health service organization; palliative care; primary care
Specialist palliative care is being increasingly recognised and developed to improve end-of-life care in many developed countries. However, only a small proportion of the total number of patients with incurable, progressive diseases actually has direct contact with specialist palliative care practitioners. Using the German situation as an example, the main purpose of this paper is to argue that the emphasis on specialist palliative care services without a similar encouragement of primary palliative care will deliver a constrained service.
For the vast majority of people with incurable, progressive diseases, good palliative care delivered by General Practitioners and community nurses, with access to specialist support when needed, is the optimal response. In Germany, specialist palliative care in the community was established in the 2007 health care reforms. However actual and potential delivery of palliative care by general practitioners and community based nurses has been sorely neglected. The time-consuming care of palliative patients and their families is currently far from accurately reflected in German, indeed most European primary care payment systems. However, it is not just a question of adequate financial compensation but also of the recognition of the fundamental value of this intense form of holistic family medicine.
It is imperative palliative care carried out by community nurses and general practitioners is better recognised by health professionals, health insurers, government and the scientific community as a central part of the delivery of health care for people in the last phase of life. Health systems should be arranged so that this critical role of general practice and primary care is intentionally fostered. Palliative care carried out by generalists needs an identity at an academic and practical level, developing in concert with specialist palliative care.
To explore the meaning of Iranian oncology nurses' experiences of caring for people at the end of life.
Materials and Methods:
A phenomenological hermeneutic approach was applied. Fifteen nurses working in oncology units were interviewed in 2007 regarding their experiences of caring for people at the end of life.
Participants experienced caring for people at the end of life as sharing space and time to be lost within an organizational context. This main theme was divided into three subthemes including being attentive to the dying persons and their families, being cared for by the dying persons and their families, and being faced with barriers.
The study suggests that the nurses' success in caring for people at the end of life is reliant on their interpersonal caring relationship. Facilitating such relationship requires the establishment of palliative care unit, incorporation of palliative care into undergraduate nursing studies, and cultural preparation through public education.
Caring for dying people; Lived experience; Iran; Oncology nurses; Palliative care
Palliative care should be provided according to the individual needs of the patient, caregiver and family, so that the type and level of care provided, as well as the setting in which it is delivered, are dependent on the complexity and severity of individual needs, rather than prognosis or diagnosis . This paper presents a study designed to assess the feasibility and efficacy of an intervention to assist in the allocation of palliative care resources according to need, within the context of a population of people with advanced cancer.
People with advanced cancer and their caregivers completed bi-monthly telephone interviews over a period of up to 18 months to assess unmet needs, anxiety and depression, quality of life, satisfaction with care and service utilisation. The intervention, introduced after at least two baseline phone interviews, involved a) training medical, nursing and allied health professionals at each recruitment site on the use of the Palliative Care Needs Assessment Guidelines and the Needs Assessment Tool: Progressive Disease - Cancer (NAT: PD-C); b) health professionals completing the NAT: PD-C with participating patients approximately monthly for the rest of the study period. Changes in outcomes will be compared pre-and post-intervention.
The study will determine whether the routine, systematic and regular use of the Guidelines and NAT: PD-C in a range of clinical settings is a feasible and effective strategy for facilitating the timely provision of needs based care.
PROBLEM BEING ADDRESSED: Access to palliative care in Edmonton has been hampered by uneven development, poor distribution of services, and more recently, economic restraints. Family physicians' involvement in palliative care has been hindered by the variety of access points, poor coordination, and inadequate reimbursement for time-consuming and difficult patient care situations. OBJECTIVE OF PROGRAM: To provide high-quality palliative care throughout Edmonton in all settings, with patients able to move easily throughout the components of the program; to lower costs by having fewer palliative care patients die in acute care facilities; and to ensure that family physicians receive support to care for most patients at home or in palliative care units. MAIN COMPONENTS OF PROGRAM: The program includes a regional office, home care, and consultant teams. A specialized 14-bed palliative care unit provides acute care. Family physicians are the primary caregivers in the 56 palliative continuing care unit beds. CONCLUSIONS: This program appears to meet most of the need for palliative care in Edmonton. Family physicians, with support from consulting teams, have a central role. Evaluation is ongoing; an important issue is how best to support patients dying at home.
To describe models used in successful clinical initiatives to improve the quality of palliative care in critical care settings.
We searched the MEDLINE database from inception to April 2010 for all English language articles using the terms “intensive care,” “critical care,” or “ICU” and “palliative care”; we also hand-searched reference lists and author files. Based on review and synthesis of these data and the experiences of our interdisciplinary expert Advisory Board, we prepared this consensus report.
Data Extraction and Synthesis
We critically reviewed the existing data with a focus on models that have been used to structure clinical initiatives to enhance palliative care for critically ill patients in intensive care units and their families.
There are two main models for intensive care unit–palliative care integration: 1) the “consultative model,” which focuses on increasing the involvement and effectiveness of palliative care consultants in the care of intensive care unit patients and their families, particularly those patients identified as at highest risk for poor outcomes; and 2) the “integrative model,” which seeks to embed palliative care principles and interventions into daily practice by the intensive care unit team for all patients and families facing critical illness. These models are not mutually exclusive but rather represent the ends of a spectrum of approaches. Choosing an overall approach from among these models should be one of the earliest steps in planning an intensive care unit–palliative care initiative. This process entails a careful and realistic assessment of available resources, attitudes of key stakeholders, structural aspects of intensive care unit care, and patterns of local practice in the intensive care unit and hospital. A well-structured intensive care unit–palliative care initiative can provide important benefits for patients, families, and providers.
intensive care; critical care; palliative care
Challenges in societal demographics, finances, and human suffering are pushing us towards a new paradigm in health care delivery. The palliative care paradigm is a necessary complement to existing acute care and chronic care paradigms. Palliative care does not replace prior paradigms; instead, it adds value and provides a shift in focus when appropriate. Baylor University Medical Center has all of the components needed for an effective palliative care program, including expertise in palliative medicine, pain management, ethics, geriatrics, oncology, other medical specialties, nursing, social work, and pastoral care. The palliative care consultation service will enhance patient care and improve financial performance in patients with serious life-limiting illnesses.
Patients treated in a palliative care unit were compared with those treated by a palliative care consultation service at the same center. The coexistence of the two institutions at one hospital contributed to the goal of ensuring optimal palliative care for patients in complex and challenging clinical situations.
Palliative care (PC) infrastructure has developed differently around the globe. Whereas some institutions consider the palliative care unit (PCU) a valuable component, others report that the sole provision of a state-of-the art palliative care consultation service (PCCS) suffices to adequately care for the severely ill and dying.
To aid institutional planning, this study aimed at gathering patient data to distinguish assignments of a concomitantly run PCU and PCCS at a large hospital and academic medical center.
Demographics, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status, symptom/problem burden, discharge modality, and team satisfaction with care for all 601 PCU and 851 PCCS patients treated in 2009 and 2010 were retrospectively analyzed.
Patients admitted to the PCU versus those consulted by the PCCS: (a) had a significantly worse performance status (odds ratio [OR], 1.48); (b) were significantly more likely to suffer from severe symptoms and psychosocial problems (OR, 2.05), in particular concerning physical suffering and complexity of care; and (c) were significantly much more likely to die during hospital stay (OR, 11.03). For patients who were dying or in other challenging clinical situations (suffering from various severe symptoms), self-rated team satisfaction was significantly higher for the PCU than the PCCS.
This study presents a direct comparison between patients in a PCU and a PCCS. Results strongly support the hypothesis that the coexistence of both institutions in one hospital contributes to the goal of ensuring optimal high-quality PC for patients in complex and challenging clinical situations.
Palliative care; Terminal care; Organization and administration; Health planning guidelines; Institutionalization
There is phase III evidence that formal assessment of patients' symptoms and quality of life can lead to measurable improvements in quality of life. Quality of life assessments using validated tools should become routine in cancer centers.
Palliative medicine is now a recognized medical subspecialty. The goal of palliative medicine is to prevent and relieve suffering, and to support the best possible quality of life for patients and their families, regardless of the stage of their illness.1 Typically, palliative medicine teams consist of multiple disciplines (such as physicians, advanced practice nurses, social workers, and chaplains) to address several domains of the patient experience. Medical oncologists have routinely provided palliative care to their patients along with antineoplastic therapy. Nevertheless, there is a recognized need for an improvement in palliative care delivery to the patient with advanced cancer. This narrative review outlines recent clinical trials of palliative care being integrated into routine oncological care.
National palliative care guidelines outline spiritual care as a domain of palliative care, yet patients’ religiousness and/or spirituality (R/S) are underappreciated in the palliative oncology setting. Among patients with advanced cancer receiving palliative radiation therapy (RT), this study aims to characterize patient spirituality, religiousness, and religious coping; examine the relationships of these variables to quality of life (QOL); and assess patients’ perceptions of spiritual care in the cancer care setting.
This is a multisite, cross-sectional survey of 69 patients with advanced cancer (response rate = 73%) receiving palliative RT. Scripted interviews assessed patient spirituality, religiousness, religious coping, QOL (McGill QOL Questionnaire), and perceptions of the importance of attention to spiritual needs by health providers. Multivariable models assessed the relationships of patient spirituality and R/S coping to patient QOL, controlling for other significant predictors of QOL.
Most participants (84%) indicated reliance on R/S beliefs to cope with cancer. Patient spirituality and religious coping were associated with improved QOL in multivariable analyses (β = 10.57, P < .001 and β = 1.28, P = .01, respectively). Most patients considered attention to spiritual concerns an important part of cancer care by physicians (87%) and nurses (85%).
Limitations include a small sample size, a cross-sectional study design, and a limited proportion of nonwhite participants (15%) from one US region.
Patients receiving palliative RT rely on R/S beliefs to cope with advanced cancer. Furthermore, spirituality and religious coping are contributors to better QOL. These findings highlight the importance of spiritual care in advanced cancer care.
The palliative services and programs have been developed with different intensity and modalities in all countries. Several studies have reported that a geographic variation in the availability and provision of palliative care services between and within countries exists, and that a number of vulnerable groups are excluded from these services. This survey estimates the distribution of places of care for Italian cancer patients during the last three months of their lives, the proportion receiving palliative care support at home and in hospital, and the factors associated with the referral to palliative care services.
This is a mortality follow-back survey of 2,000 cancer deaths identified with a 2-stage probability sample, representative of the whole country. Information on patients' experience was gathered from the non-professional caregiver through an interview, using an adapted version of the VOICES questionnaire. A section of the interview concerned the places of care and the palliative care services provided to patients. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify the determinants of palliative care service use.
Valid interviews were obtained for 67% of the identified caregivers (n = 1,271). Most Italian cancer patients were cared for at home (91%) or in hospital (63%), but with substantial differences within the country. Only 14% of Italian cancer patients cared for at home against 20% of those admitted to hospital, received palliative care support. The principal determinants identified for receiving these service were: an extended interval between diagnosis and death (P = 0.01) and the caregiver's high educational level (P = 0.01) for patients at home; the low patient's age (P < 0.01) and the caregiver's high educational level (P = 0.01) for patients in hospital.
In Italy palliative care services are not equally available across the country. Moreover, access to the palliative care services is strongly associated with socio demographic characteristics of the patients and their caregivers. Italian Policy-makers need to equalise palliative care provision and access across the country to meet the needs of all cancer patients.
Palliative care is increasingly recognized as an integral component of comprehensive intensive care for all critically ill patients, regardless of prognosis, and for their families. Here we discuss the key role that nurses can and must continue to play in making this evidence-based paradigm a clinical reality across a broad range of ICUs. We review the contributions of nurses to implementation of ICU safety initiatives as a model that can be applied to ICU palliative care integration. We focus on the importance of nursing involvement in design and application of work processes that facilitate this integration in a systematic way, including processes that ensure the participation of nurses in discussions and decision making with families about care goals. We suggest ways that nurses can help to operationalize an integrated approach to palliative care in the ICU and to define their own essential role in a successful, sustainable ICU palliative care improvement effort. Finally, we identify resources including The IPAL-ICU Project™, a new initiative by the Center to Advance Palliative Care that can assist nurses and other healthcare professionals to move such efforts forward in diverse critical care settings.
intensive care; nurse's role; palliative care
The current state of palliative care in cancer centers is not known.
We conducted a survey to determine the availability and degree of integration of palliative care services, and to compare between National Cancer Institute (NCI) and non-NCI cancer centers in the United States.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Between June and October 2009, we surveyed both executives and palliative care clinical program leaders, where applicable, of 71 NCI cancer centers and a random sample of 71 non-NCI centers regarding their palliative care services. Executives were also asked about their attitudes toward palliative care.
Main Outcome Measure
Availability of palliative care services in the cancer center, defined as the presence of at least one palliative care physician.
We sent 142 and 120 surveys to executives and program leaders, with response rates of 71% and 82%, respectively. NCI cancer centers were significantly more likely to have a palliative care program (50/51 (98%) vs. 39/50 (78%), P=0.002), at least one palliative care physician (46/51 (90%) vs. 28/50 (56%), P=0.04), an inpatient palliative care consultation team (47/51 (92%) vs. 28/50 (56%), P<0.001), and an outpatient palliative care clinic (30/51 (59%) vs. 11/50 (22%), P<0.001). Few centers had dedicated palliative care beds (23/101 (23%)) or an institution-operated hospice (37/101 (36%)). The median reported durations from referral to death were 7 (Q1–Q3 4–16), 7 (Q1–Q3 5–10), and 90 (Q1–Q3 30–120) days for inpatient consultation teams, inpatient units, and outpatient clinics, respectively. Research programs, palliative care fellowships, and mandatory rotations for oncology fellows were uncommon. Executives were supportive of stronger integration and increasing palliative care resources.
Most cancer centers reported a palliative care program, although the scope of services and the degree of integration varied widely. Further efforts to consolidate existing infrastructure and to integrate palliative care in cancer centers are warranted.
A case presentation is used to discuss the impact of early palliative care access in light of the currently available evidence and ways to improve early access to palliative care through education and research are recommended.
After completing this course, the reader will be able to:
Discuss the impact of early access to palliative care service on symptom control, quality of life, and cost of care.Formulate strategies to improve early palliative care access through education and research.
This article is available for continuing medical education credit at CME.TheOncologist.com
Cancer patients develop severe physical and psychological symptoms as a result of their disease and treatment. Their families commonly suffer great emotional distress as a result of caregiving. Early palliative care access can improve symptom control and quality of life and reduce the cost of care. Preliminary results show that early palliative care access can also extend survival. Unfortunately, only a minority of cancer centers in the U.S. have the two most important resources for palliative care delivery: outpatient palliative care centers and inpatient palliative care units. In this article, we use a case presentation to discuss the impact of early palliative care access in light of the currently available evidence, and we recommend ways to improve early access to palliative care through education and research.
Early palliative care; Efficacy of palliative care; Symptom control; Cost of care; Quality care; Supportive care
The Ottawa Rapid Palliative Radiotherapy Program (rprp) was established in 1999 with the goal of facilitating access by family physicians to radiotherapy services for patients with advanced symptomatic cancer. Two years later, an audit revealed that of the 148 patients treated by the program, only 19 had been referred by family physicians.
We therefore assessed awareness of the rprp and perceptions of the effectiveness of palliative radiotherapy on the part of family physicians by surveying a random sample of family physicians in Eastern Ontario.
Response rate was 50%. Only 18% of family physicians were aware of the rprp, although 56% had previously referred patients for palliative radiotherapy. Among responders, 80% regularly provided palliative care, and these physicians were much more likely to be aware of and to refer patients for palliative radiotherapy.
Our survey confirms the key role that family physicians play in providing care to patients with advanced cancer. However, significant deficits in family physician awareness of palliative radiotherapy programs and in knowledge of the effectiveness of palliative radiotherapy should be addressed to improve patient care.
Palliative radiotherapy; effectiveness; family physician; awareness; survey
A common disorder requiring symptom palliation in palliative and end-of-life care is cancer. Cancer pain is recognized as a global health burden. This paper sought to systematically examine the extent to which there is an adequate scientific research base on cancer pain and its reporting characteristics in the palliative care journal literature.
Materials and Methods:
Search conducted in MEDLINE and CINAHL sought to locate all studies published in 19 palliative/ hospice/ supportive/ end-of-life care journals from 2009 to 2010. The journals included were: American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, BMC Palliative Care, Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care, End of Life Care Journal, European Journal of Palliative Care, Hospice Management Advisor, Indian Journal of Palliative Care, International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Internet Journal of Pain Symptom Control and Palliative Care, Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, Journal of Palliative Care, Journal of Palliative Medicine, Journal of Social Work in End-of-life and Palliative Care, Journal of Supportive Oncology, Palliative Medicine, Palliative and Supportive Care, and Supportive Care in Cancer. Journal contents were searched to identify studies that included cancer pain in abstract.
During the years 2009 and 2010, of the selected 1,569 articles published in the journals reviewed, only 5.86% (92 articles) were on cancer pain.
While researchers in the field of palliative care have studied cancer pain, the total percentage for studies is still a low 5.86%. To move the field of palliative care forward so that appropriate guidelines for cancer pain management can be developed, it is critical that more research be reported upon which to base cancer pain therapy in an evidence-based palliative care model.
Cancer pain; Palliative care research; Reporting characteristics
PROBLEM BEING ADDRESSED
Family physicians face innumerable challenges to delivering quality palliative home care to meet the complex needs of end-of-life patients and their families.
OBJECTIVE OF PROGRAM
To implement a model of shared care to enhance family physicians’ ability to deliver quality palliative home care, particularly in a community-based setting.
Family physicians in 3 group practices (N = 21) in Ontario’s Niagara West region collaborated with an interprofessional palliative care team (including a palliative care advanced practice nurse, a palliative medicine physician, a bereavement counselor, a psychosocial-spiritual advisor, and a case manager) in a shared-care partnership to provide comprehensive palliative home care. Key features of the program included systematic and timely identification of end-of-life patients, needs assessments, symptom and psychosocial support interventions, regular communication between team members, and coordinated care guided by outcome-based assessment in the home. In addition, educational initiatives were provided to enhance family physicians’ knowledge and skills.
Because of the program, participants reported improved communication, effective interprofessional collaboration, and the capacity to deliver palliative home care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to end-of-life patients in the community.