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Aust J Adv Nurs. 2006 Dec-2007 Feb;24(2):21-5.

Dying for attention: palliative care in the acute setting.

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Nursing and Patient Services, Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, South Australia.



Palliative care has emerged as a specialist discipline in the past 25 years. However in relation to acute hospitals, a sense exists that patients who are receiving end of life care may not experience support which fully reflects appropriate palliative care management.


This study aimed to analyse the end of life care received by patients in the acute wards of a busy teaching hospital.


Retrospective analysis using multiple methods including: case note auditing and interviews of key staff was used to determine the quality of end of life support provided to an opportunistic sample of patients who died in acute care wards.


The research site is a 250 bed teaching hospital in South Australia.


A medical record audit using an opportunistic sample of 20 recently deceased patients from acute wards was used. For each patient, interviews were also conducted with two nurses (n = 40) selected on the basis of having a major care involvement.


A range of strategies for enhancing the end of life care for patients in acute wards were determined, including support for application of a Palliative Care Advanced Disease Pathway.


The lack of appropriate assessment and documentation indicates that major opportunities for enhanced service provision exist both in relation to physical care and even more significantly in relation to psychosocial and spiritual care.


The end of life care provided for patients reviewed in this study indicates a far from ideal situation in the acute hospital wards of the research setting. An eagerness from the nurse participants in the study for tools and further support in their practice was noted and augurs well for future developments within the research site.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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