Making room for life and death at the same time - a qualitative study of health and social care professionals' understanding and use of the concept of paediatric palliative care

BMC Palliat Care. 2022 Apr 11;21(1):50. doi: 10.1186/s12904-022-00933-4.


Background: The concept of pediatric palliative care (PPC) is applied differently within the healthcare system and among healthcare professionals (HCPs). To our knowledge, no studies have investigated how multidisciplinary HCPs understand the concept of PPC and the aim of this study was to explore the concept of PPC from the view of HCP in a paediatric setting.

Methods: We employed an explorative and descriptive design and conducted four focus groups with a total of 21 HCPs working in hospitals with children in palliative care. The data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.

Results: The data analysis of the concept of pediatric palliative care resulted in two themes. The first theme "A frightening concept that evokes negative emotions," contains categories to explore the meaning, named "An unfamiliar and not meaningful concept, "A concept still associated with death and dying" and "Healthcare professionals' responsibility for introducing and using the concept and, to obtain a common meaning." The second theme was named "A broad and complementary concept," containing the categories "Total care for the child and the family," "Making room for life and death at the same time" and "The meaning of alleviation and palliative care."

Conclusions: The included HCPs reflected differently around PPC but most of them highlighted quality of life, total care for the child and the child's family and interdisciplinary collaboration as core elements. Attention to and knowledge among HCPs might change the perception about PPC from a frightening concept to one that is accepted by all parties, implemented in practice and used as intended. However, our study reveals that there is still some work to do before PPC is understood and accepted by all those involved.

Keywords: Alleviation; Concept; Health care professionals; Life limiting; PPC; Paediatric; Palliative care; Pediatric; Terminal care.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care* / psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Support