Advance-care-planning and end-of-life discussions in the perioperative period: a review of healthcare professionals' knowledge, attitudes, and training

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Abstract

Whilst the risk of dying after an operation in the UK is very small, the volume of surgery means that there are 20 000–25 000 deaths each year. For these patients and others who suffer major complications, critical illness often leads to a loss of capacity. If wishes are not discussed in advance, the patients may be excluded from meaningful involvement in decisions affecting their care. The preoperative period has been postulated as one where advance care planning could begin by engaging in voluntary conversations about an individual's wishes, priorities, and values should he/she loses capacity. There remain unanswered questions as to whether healthcare professionals are supportive of a move towards better engagement in such discussions with patients. Even if the reception to the idea is positive, it is clear that appropriate training and understanding will be required. The aims of this review were to describe the current knowledge and attitudes of healthcare professionals towards advance care planning in the perioperative setting, and to outline any educational programmes or training limitations that have been identified. Seven articles that met the inclusion criteria were identified. They indicate that healthcare professionals mostly have a positive view of advance care planning in the perioperative period, and there is little training or educational content available. Despite this, most healthcare professionals report feeling well equipped to have such discussions. Evidence was not found of advance care planning becoming a routine part of training or practice in the care of patients in the lead up to high-risk surgery.

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