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How do professionals assess the quality of life of children with advanced cancer receiving palliative care, and what are their recommendations for improvement?

Journal title
BMC palliative care
Publication year
Avoine-Blondin, J.; Parent, V.; Fasse, L.; Lopez, C.; Humbert, N.; Duval, M.; Sultan, S.

BACKGROUND: It is known that information regarding the quality of life of a patient is central to pediatric palliative care. This information allows professionals to adapt the care and support provided to children and their families. Previous studies have documented the major areas to be investigated in order to assess the quality of life, although it is not yet known what operational criteria or piece of information should be used in the context of pediatric palliative care. The present study aims to: 1) Identify signs of quality of life and evaluation methods currently used by professionals to assess the quality of life of children with cancer receiving palliative care. 2) Collect recommendations from professionals to improve the evaluation of quality of life in this context. METHODS: We selected a qualitative research design and applied an inductive thematic content analysis to the verbal material. Participants included 20 members of the Department of Hematology-Oncology at CHU Sainte-Justine from various professions (e.g. physicians, nurses, psychosocial staff) who had cared for at least one child with cancer receiving palliative care in the last year. RESULTS: Professionals did not have access to pre-established criteria or to a defined procedure to assess the quality of life of children they followed in the context of PPC. They reported basing their assessment on the child’s non-verbal cues, relational availability and elements of his/her environment. These cues are typically collected through observation, interpretation and by asking the child, his/her parents, and other members of the care. To improve the assessment of quality of life professionals recommended optimizing interdisciplinary communication, involving the child and the family in the evaluation process, increasing training to palliative care in hematology/oncology, and developing formalized measurement tools. CONCLUSION: The formulation of explicit criteria to assess the quality of life in this context, along with detailed recommendations provided by professionals, support the development of systematic measurement strategy. Such a strategy would contribute to the development of common care goals and further facilitate communication between professionals and with the family.

Research abstracts