Together for Short Lives
Call the Helpline 0808 8088 100

Perspectives of speech and language therapists in paediatric palliative care: an international exploratory study

Journal title
International journal of language & communication disorders
Publication year
Krikheli, L.; Erickson, S.; Carey, L. B.; Carey-Sargeant, C. L.; Mathisen, B. A.

BACKGROUND: The involvement of speech and language therapists (SLTs) within paediatric palliative care (PPC) settings has been recognized within the extant literature. However, there is little understanding of SLT's specific roles and practices when working with this vulnerable cohort of children and their families. As part of a larger body of work to develop consensus-based recommendations for SLTs working in PPC, it is important to investigate demographic and caseload characteristics. AIMS: This exploratory study aimed to gather previously undocumented international demographic data pertaining to SLT service provision, caseload and training in PPC. Additionally, it sought to ascertain the current treatment and assessment approaches of SLTs, and if variations exist in beliefs and practices. METHODS & PROCEDURES: An anonymous cross-sectional survey was designed and reported according to the Checklist for Reporting Results of Internet E-Surveys (CHERRIES). The online survey consisted of 40 items spanning four domains: (1) demographic information, (2) caseload information, (3) service provision and (4) training and education. SLTs from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland and the United States were recruited using a purposive snowball sampling approach. Descriptive analysis of closed-ended survey responses and content analysis of open-ended responses are presented. OUTCOMES & RESULTS: A total of 52 respondents completed the survey. SLTs worked in a variety of PPC settings, with patients of varying age and disease groups. Over 50% of participants reported working in PPC for ? 4 years. Genetic disorders (34%), oncology (27%) and neurological conditions (21%) made up a significant portion of respondents' caseloads. Reported treatments and assessment approaches used by SLTs are not unique to a PPC population. Barriers and enablers for practice were identified. A portion of participants did not feel trained and prepared to assess (19.2%) or treat (15.4%) PPC clients. CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: This study confirms that SLTs internationally have a role in the management of communication and swallowing impairments in a PPC context. However, whether current training and resources adequately support SLTs in this role remains questionable. This paper helps to provide SLTs, administrators, professional associations and tertiary institutions with foundational data to help inform workforce planning, advocacy efforts and training priorities. What this paper adds What is already known on the subject The published multidisciplinary literature has identified that SLTs have a role in PPC. However, there has been no targeted research investigating the professional characteristics of clinicians in this context, nor any detailed information regarding associated clinician beliefs or management approaches. What this paper adds to existing knowledge This study is a snapshot of attributes, practice patterns and beliefs of SLTs who work with a PPC population. It highlights SLT perspectives of education and training, as well as meta-perceptions of themselves within the multidisciplinary team. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? Data presented in this paper will help to enable SLTs, organizations and associations to augment service provision and determine future professional development priorities within the field of PPC.

Research abstracts