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Pediatric palliative care: an assessment of physicians’ confidence in skills, desire for training, and willingness to refer for end-of-life care

Publication year
Sheetz, M. J.; Bowman, M. A.

This study determines the confidence levels of physicians in providing components of pediatric palliative care and identifies their willingness to obtain training and to make palliative care referrals. Surveys were mailed to all physicians at Primary Children’s Medical Center. The survey instrument includes 3 demographic items, 9 items designed to assess physician confidence in core palliative care skills, and 4 items designed to assess what steps physicians would be likely to take to assure that patients receive palliative care. Physicians were asked to rate their confidence levels to provide palliative care components on a 4-point scale for each of the items. Five hundred ninety-seven surveys were mailed, with 323 usable surveys returned. The proportion of physicians who rate their ability to provide palliative care as "confident" or "very confident" ranges from 74% for giving difficult news to families to 23% for managing end-of-life symptoms. Thirty-six percent of the physicians say they would be "likely" or "very likely" to attend training to improve their ability to provide palliative care to children. Eighty-six percent would be "likely" or "very likely" to refer for a palliative care consult and 91% to a home health agency or hospice. There is wide variation in the confidence levels of physicians to provide the core components of palliative care. Few are interested in obtaining additional training, but most are willing to obtain consultation or to refer to a palliative care service. These results argue in favor of hospital-based palliative care teams and for specialty training and certification in pediatric palliative care.

Research abstracts