Aim: The aim of this study was to understand staff perceptions of the role of the hospital palliative care team and to identify knowledge and confidence levels of general staff caring for patients with palliative care needs.
Method: A survey questionnaire tool was used with a response rate of 51 per cent. Participants included nurses, health care assistants and doctors.
Results: The study highlighted several misconceptions about the role of the palliative care team, but demonstrated that the clinical staff surveyed were confident in their palliative care skills, with the exception of discharge planning, despite the fact that only 26 per cent of nurses reported having undergone training in palliative care. It identified that HCAs felt confident in caring for dying patients yet had little confidence in dealing with distressed relatives or speaking to patients and families about death. It was also interesting to note that trained nurses felt confident in their symptom control skills, and they rated training in this area as one of the top priorities.
Conclusion: The findings have considerable implications for palliative care services. Professional education should continue to focus primarily on symptom control and communication skills training, but stress management training should be considered. Staff need to be clear about how to obtain advice and what support is available for cancer patients. Further research is required to understand the needs of HCAs and potential models for education and support.