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Advance Care Discussions: Pediatric Clinician Preparedness and Practices

Journal title
Journal of pain and symptom management
Publication year
Sanderson, A.; Hall, A. M.; Wolfe, J.

CONTEXT: Few data exist regarding clinician preparedness to participate in advance care discussions (ACD) and the practices surrounding these discussions for children with life-threatening conditions. OBJECTIVES: We sought to understand pediatric clinician preparedness to participate in ACD and the practices surrounding these discussions. METHODS: A survey was administered to assess clinician attitudes and behaviors regarding ACD. RESULTS: Two hundred sixty-six clinicians (107 physicians and 159 nurses) responded to the survey (response rate 53.6%). Seventy-five percent of clinicians felt prepared to participate in ACD. Most clinicians believed they were prepared to express empathy (98.8%), discuss goals of care for an adolescent patient (90.3%), and elicit a parent’s hopes (90.3%). Conversely, several felt unprepared to discuss resuscitation status with school-aged (59.7%) and adolescent (48.5%) patients and to conduct a family conference (39.5%). The most frequent topics addressed were: parents’ understanding of the patient’s illness (75.5%), primary goals of the parent (75.1%), and the parents’ understanding of prognosis (71.1%). Conversely, the topics least commonly discussed were as follows: belief system of the patient/family (22.0%), patient’s hopes (21.2%), and the patient’s perceptions of his/her quality of life (19.8%). Notably, 40% of clinicians believe that caring for patients with poor prognoses is depressing, and this was more common among less-experienced clinicians (P = 0.048). CONCLUSION: Many clinicians believe they are prepared to participate in ACD, but practices are not consistent with expert recommendations for optimal ACD. Educational interventions aimed at improving clinician knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, and greater clinician support may enhance health care provider ACD preparedness and skills.

Research abstracts