Treatment of palliative care emergencies by prehospital emergency physicians in Germany: an interview based investigation

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Palliative care medical emergencies as a consequence of advanced cancer account for approximately 3% of all prehospital emergency cases. Therefore, prehospital emergency physicians (EP) are confronted with ‘end of life decisions’. No educational content exists concerning palliative medicine in emergency medicine curricula. Over the course of 6 months, we interviewed 150 EPs about their experiences in ‘end of life decisions’ using a specific questionnaire. The total response rate was 69% (n= 104). Most of the interviewed EPs (89%, n = 93) had been confronted with palliative care medical emergencies and expressed uncertainties in dealing with these difficult situations, especially in the area of psychosocial care of the patients (50%). The emergency treatment of palliative care patients can become a particular challenge for any EP. A large percentage of interviewed EPs felt uncertain about aspects of social care and in the assessment of decisions at the end of life. Further information and training are necessary to amenable EPs to provide adequate patient-oriented care to palliative care patients and their relatives in emergency situations.

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