Issues in prognostication for hospital specialist palliative care doctors and nurses: A qualitative inquiry
ABSTRACT BACKGROUND: Patients with advanced life-limiting diseases have high information needs concerning prognosis yet discussions between patients and healthcare professionals are either avoided or inaccurate due to over-optimism. Available prognostic models are problematic. Literature indicates that hospital specialist palliative care professionals are frequently asked to prognosticate, although their experience of prognostication is unknown. Identifying this experience will support the development of prognosis training for hospital specialist palliative care professionals. AIM: To explore hospital specialist palliative care professionals' experience of prognostication.Research questions: 'How do specialist palliative care team members prognosticate?'; 'How do they view prognostication?' DESIGN: Qualitative research - focus group interviews.Setting/participants: Three UK hospital specialist palliative care teams. Participants included medical doctors and palliative care nurses. Inclusion/exclusion criteria: member of hospital specialist palliative care team with knowledge and experience of prognostication. Numbers of participants: four hospital specialist palliative medicine consultants, three senior doctors in training, nine clinical nurse specialists. RESULTS: Two major themes: Difficulties of prognostication; Benefits of prognostication. Eleven sub-themes: Difficulties (Non-malignant disease; Communicating uncertainty; Seeking definitive prognosis; Participants' feelings; Confidence in prognostication; Estimating prognosis; Dealing with reaction of prognosis; Prognostic error); Benefits (Patient informed decision-making prioritizing needs and care; Family-prioritizing commitments; Services accessing funding and services planning patient care). CONCLUSIONS: Findings highlight lack of evidence to support practice, and identify the complexity and emotional labour involved in prognostication by hospital specialist palliative care team members, and are used to discuss recommendations for further research and practice.
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ABSTRACT: For patients with advanced and/or incurable disease, clinicians are often called upon to formulate and communicate an estimate of likely survival duration. The objective of this study was to gain a deeper appreciation of this process by identifying and exploring the specific elements that may inform and/or impact a clinician's estimate of survival (CES). Semistructured interviews were conducted among a group of palliative care clinicians in the setting of a tertiary academic health sciences centre. Qualitative data were subsequently analysed using a grounded theory approach. Five major themes were identified as being central to the process of CES formulation: use of objective patient-specific elements, strength of the patient-clinician relationship, purpose and context of an individual CES, perceived role of hope and the overall likelihood of CES inaccuracy. For any given patient, several elements have the potential to inform and/or impact the process of CES formulation. Study participants were aware of objective clinical factors known to correlate with actual survival duration and likely integrate this information when formulating a CES. Formulation occurs within a larger context comprised of a number of elements that may influence individual estimates. These elements exist against a background of awareness of the overall likelihood of CES inaccuracy. Clinicians are encouraged to develop a personalised and standardised approach to CES formulation whereby an awareness of the menu of potentially impacting elements is consciously integrated into an individual process.Supportive and Palliative Care 09/2013; 3(3):330-334. DOI:10.1136/bmjspcare-2012-000320
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ABSTRACT: Background Conversation and discourse analytic research has yielded important evidence about skills needed for effective, sensitive communication with patients about illness progression and end of life. Objectives To: ▸ Locate and synthesise observational evidence about how people communicate about sensitive future matters; ▸ Inform practice and policy on how to provide opportunities for talk about these matters; ▸ Identify evidence gaps. Design Systematic review of conversation/discourse analytic studies of recorded interactions in English, using a bespoke appraisal approach and aggregative synthesis. Results 19 publications met the inclusion criteria. We summarised findings in terms of eight practices: ‘fishing questions’—open questions seeking patients’ perspectives (5/19); indirect references to difficult topics (6/19); linking to what a patient has already said—or noticeably not said (7/19); hypothetical questions (12/19); framing difficult matters as universal or general (4/19); conveying sensitivity via means other than words, for example, hesitancy, touch (4/19); encouraging further talk using means other than words, for example, long silences (2/19); and steering talk from difficult/negative to more optimistic aspects (3/19). Conclusions Practices vary in how strongly they encourage patients to engage in talk about matters such as illness progression and dying. Fishing questions and indirect talk make it particularly easy to avoid engaging—this may be appropriate in some circumstances. Hypothetical questions are more effective in encouraging on-topic talk, as is linking questions to patients’ cues. Shifting towards more ‘optimistic’ aspects helps maintain hope but closes off further talk about difficulties: practitioners may want to delay doing so. There are substantial gaps in evidence.Supportive and Palliative Care 10/2014; 4(4). DOI:10.1136/bmjspcare-2014-000649