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Provision of Palliative and Hospice Care to Children in the Community: A Population Study of Hospice Nurses

Journal title
Journal of pain and symptom management
Publication year
2019
Author(s)
Kaye, E. C.; Gattas, M.; Kiefer, A.; Reynolds, J.; Zalud, K.; Li, C.; Lu, Z.; Baker, J. N.
Pages
241-250
Volume
57
Number
2

CONTEXT: Approximately 500,000 children in the United States suffer from life-limiting illnesses each year, many of whom are hospice eligible each year. Few hospice agencies, however, offer formal pediatric programs. OBJECTIVE: To determine the levels of experience and comfort of hospice nurses who provide care to children and families in the community. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was developed to assess hospice nurse experience/comfort across the domains of symptom management, end-of-life care, goals of care, family-centered care, and bereavement. The survey was pilot tested and distributed to hospice nurses across a tristate region. RESULTS: A total of 551 respondents across 71 hospices completed surveys. The majority of nurses reported no training in pediatric palliative or hospice care (89.8%), with approximately half reporting <5 years of hospice experience (53.7%) and no pediatric hospice experience (49.4%). Those with pediatric hospice experience reported limited opportunities to maintain or build their skills, with the majority providing care to children several times a year or less (85.7%). Nurses reported feeling somewhat or very uncomfortable providing services to children during the illness trajectory and at the end of life across all domains. CONCLUSION: Children with serious illness who receive care from local hospices often interface with nurses who lack training, experience, and comfort in the provision of palliative and hospice care to pediatric patients. These findings should inform future development and investigation of educational resources, training programs, and child- and family-centered policies to improve the delivery of palliative and hospice care to children in the community.

Research abstracts