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Exploring the Rewards and Challenges of Paediatric Palliative Care Work - A Qualitative Study of a Multi-disciplinary Children's Hospice Care Team

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JournalBMC Palliative Care
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Nov 2017
DatePublished (current) - 16 Dec 2017
Issue number73
Original languageEnglish


Background: Children’s hospices are a key provider of palliative care for children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions. However, despite recent policy attention to the provision of paediatric palliative care, little is known about the role of children’s hospice staff and the factors that may impact on their wellbeing at work. This study explored the rewards and challenges of working in a children’s hospice with an aim to identify staff support and development needs.
Methods: We conducted an exploratory, qualitative study involving thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with 34 staff and three focus groups with 17 staff working in a multi-disciplinary care team in a UK children’s hospice.
Results: Participants identified rewards and challenges related to the direct work of caring for children and their families; team dynamics and organisational structures; and individual resilience and job motivation. Participants described the work as emotionally intensive and multi-faceted; ‘getting it right’ for children was identified as a strong motivator and reward, but also a potential stressor as staff strived to maintain high standards of personalised and emotional care. Other factors were identified as both a reward and stressor, including team functioning, the allocation of work, meeting parent expectations, and the hospice environment. Many participants identified training needs for different aspects of the role to help them feel more confident and competent. Participants also expressed concerns about work-related stress, both for themselves and for colleagues, but felt unable to discuss this at work. Informal support from colleagues and group clinical reflection were identified as primary resources to reflect on and learn from work and for emotional support. However, opportunities for this were limited.
Conclusions: Providing regular, structured, and dedicated clinical reflection provides a mechanism through which children’s hospice staff can come together for support and learning, and demonstrates an organisational commitment to staff wellbeing and development. Being aware of children’s hospice specific rewards and challenges can help to ensure that staff feel supported and competent in their role. Breaking down barriers to discussing work-related stress and enhancing awareness about early signs of burnout is also important.
Paediatric palliative care, end of life, children’s hospice, work-related stress, burnout, staff support, qualitative research, clinical reflection, clinical supervision

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