End-of-life and palliative care of patients on maintenance hemodialysis treatment: a focus group study

BMC Palliat Care. 2019 Oct 30;18(1):89. doi: 10.1186/s12904-019-0481-y.


Background: Despite complex illness trajectories and a high symptom burden, palliative care has been sub-optimal for patients with end-stage kidney disease and hemodialysis treatment who have a high rate of hospitalization and intensive care towards end of life. There is a growing awareness that further development of palliative care is required to meet the needs of these patients and their family members. In this process, it is important to explore healthcare professionals' views on provision of care. The aim of this study was therefore to describe nurses' and physicians' perspectives on end-of-life and palliative care of patients treated with maintenance hemodialysis.

Methods: Four focus group interviews were conducted with renal nurses (17) and physicians (5) in Sweden. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze data.

Results: Participants were committed to giving the best possible care to their patients, but there were challenges and barriers to providing quality palliative care in nephrology settings. Professionals described palliative care as end-of-life care associated with hemodialysis withdrawal or palliative dialysis, but also identified care needs and possibilities that are in line with an earlier integrated palliative approach. This was perceived as complex from an organizational point of view. Participants identified challenges related to coordination of care and different perspectives on care responsibilities that impacted symptom management and patients' quality of life. Communication issues relating to the provision of palliative care were revealed where the hemodialysis setting was regarded as an impediment, and personal and professional experiences, beliefs and knowledge were considered of major importance.

Conclusions: Nurses and physicians identified a need for the improvement of both late and earlier palliative care approaches. The results highlighted a requirement for and possibilities of training, counselling and support of health care professionals in the dialysis context. Further, multi-professional palliative care collaborations should be developed to improve the coordination and organization of end-of-life and palliative care of patients and their family members. A climate allowing conversations about advance care planning throughout the illness trajectory may facilitate the gradual integration of palliative care alongside life-prolonging treatment for improved support of patients and families.

Keywords: End-of-life care; End-stage kidney disease; Focus group interviews; Hemodialysis; Nurses; Palliative care; Physicians.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disease Management*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Health Care / standards
  • Renal Dialysis / methods*
  • Renal Dialysis / trends
  • Sweden
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / trends