Improving the wellbeing of staff who work in palliative care settings: A systematic review of psychosocial interventions

Palliat Med. 2016 Oct;30(9):825-33. doi: 10.1177/0269216316637237. Epub 2016 Mar 4.


Background: Staff in palliative care settings perform emotionally demanding roles which may lead to psychological distress including stress and burnout. Therefore, interventions have been designed to address these occupational risks.

Aim: To investigate quantitative studies exploring the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions that attempt to improve psychological wellbeing of palliative care staff.

Design: A systematic review was conducted according to methodological guidance from UK Centre for Reviews and Dissemination.

Data sources: A search strategy was developed based on the initial scans of palliative care studies. Potentially eligible research articles were identified by searching the following databases: CINAHL, MEDLINE (Ovid), PsycINFO and Web of Science. Two reviewers independently screened studies against pre-set eligibility criteria. To assess quality, both researchers separately assessed the remaining studies using the Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies.

Results: A total of 1786 potentially eligible articles were identified - nine remained following screening and quality assessment. Study types included two randomised controlled trials, two non-randomised controlled trial designs, four one-group pre-post evaluations and one process evaluation. Studies took place in the United States and Canada (5), Europe (3) and Hong Kong (1). Interventions comprised a mixture of relaxation, education, support and cognitive training and targeted stress, fatigue, burnout, depression and satisfaction. The randomised controlled trial evaluations did not improve psychological wellbeing of palliative care staff. Only two of the quasi-experimental studies appeared to show improved staff wellbeing although these studies were methodologically weak.

Conclusion: There is an urgent need to address the lack of intervention development work and high-quality research in this area.

Keywords: Palliative care; psychosocial intervention; staff; wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Canada
  • Depression
  • Europe
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic