Self-Perceived End-of-Life Care Competencies of Health-Care Providers at a Large Academic Medical Center

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Abstract

Background:

In the United States, most deaths occur in hospitals, with approximately 25% of hospitalized patients having palliative care needs. Therefore, the provision of good end-of-life (EOL) care to these patients is a priority. However, research assessing staff preparedness for the provision of EOL care to hospitalized patients is lacking.

Objective:

To assess health-care professionals’ self-perceived competencies regarding the provision of EOL care in hospitalized patients.

Methods:

Descriptive study of self-perceived EOL care competencies among health-care professionals. The study instrument (End-of-Life Questionnaire) contains 28 questions assessing knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to the provision of EOL care. Health-care professionals (nursing, medicine, social work, psychology, physical, occupational and respiratory therapist, and spiritual care) at a large academic medical center participated in the study. Means were calculated for each item, and comparisons of mean scores were conducted via t tests. Analysis of variance was used to identify differences among groups.

Results:

A total of 1197 questionnaires was completed. The greatest self-perceived competency was in providing emotional support for patients/families, and the least self-perceived competency was in providing continuity of care. When compared to nurses, physicians had higher scores on EOL care attitudes, behaviors, and communication. Physicians and nurses had higher scores on most subscales than other health-care providers.

Conclusions:

Differences in self-perceived EOL care competencies were identified among disciplines, particularly between physicians and nurses. The results provide evidence for assessing health-care providers to identify their specific training needs before implementing educational programs on EOL care.

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