Identifying transitions in terminal illness trajectories: a critical factor in hospital-based palliative care

Int J Palliat Nurs. 2010 Feb;16(2):87-92. doi: 10.12968/ijpn.2010.16.2.46754.


This article describes the significance of the identification and explicit communication of the different clinical phases in incurable illness trajectories in a hospital setting. The article is part of a qualitative study carried out in a Danish haematology department. The data were obtained through a total of 157 hours of participant observation and informal interviews with patients, families, doctors and nurses and four focus group interviews with doctors and nursing staff. Grounded theory was applied for the data analysis. The findings outline how the unpredictability of certain haematological malignancies and barriers in professional practice tended to postpone identifications of transitions between clinical phases. The study has identified ten barriers including personal, professional, time-related, cultural and organizational-for an open dialogue between staff, patients and families about illness progression. The quality of palliative care was affected as different clinical phases require different treatment and care strategies. Complex intervention is called for.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Communication
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration*
  • Denmark
  • Disease Progression
  • Focus Groups
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / psychology
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Palliative Care* / organization & administration
  • Palliative Care* / psychology
  • Personnel, Hospital / psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Health Care