Palliative care competencies and education needs of nurses and healthcare assistants involved in the provision of supportive palliative care

Int J Palliat Nurs. 2021 Jun 2;27(4):195-204. doi: 10.12968/ijpn.2021.27.4.195.


Background: This paper investigates the palliative care competencies (knowledge, behaviours, attitudes) and education needs of nurses and healthcare assistants (HCAs) who provide supportive (Level 2) palliative care.

Methods: A mixed-methods study using a sequential exploratory design was used, with findings integrated across sources. Qualitative focus groups were conducted in 2018 with a sample of staff (n=11, all female; nurses=4; HCAs=7) providing supportive palliative care in a single service setting. A quantitative survey, also conducted in 2018, explored the issue with a wider sample within the same setting (n=36; nurses=18; HCAs=18; female=32).

Results: Qualitatively, communication was highlighted as an important domain of the competence framework, with many participants acknowledging that the ability to communicate effectively is essential. Quantitatively, participants scored in the lower range for competency variables. A significant difference was observed between HCAs and nurses on measures of knowledge (t= -2.718; df=30; p<.05) and behaviour (t=-3.576; df=30; p<.05), with HCAs scoring significantly higher than nurses. In relation to education, while some participants report being indecisive regarding engaging in education/training, others highlighted the benefit of education, especially its ability to impact on their current practice.

Conclusion: This research contributes to understanding palliative care competencies among nurses and HCAs working in palliative care, and has important implications for the education and training of nurses and HCAs working in Level 2 palliative care in Ireland.

Keywords: Attitudes; Competences; Education; Knowledge; Nurses; Palliative care.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel* / education
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Female
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing* / education
  • Humans
  • Nurses*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires