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Can J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2013 Winter;23(1):12-8.

Exposing barriers to end-of-life communication in heart failure: an integrative review.

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St. Paul's Hospital, Providence Health Care, Vancouver, BC.



End-of-life (EOL) communication is lacking despite patients with heart failure (HF) and their caregivers desiring it.


To review the existing literature to identify barriers that inhibit EOL communication in the HF population.


We chose an integrative literature review method and began by searching CINAHL, Medline, PsychInfo, Web of Science, Health Source Nursing Academic, Evidence-Based Medicine Reviews (EBMR), dissertations and theses searches through the University of Victoria and through Proquest from 1995 to 2011. DATA EVALUATION: EOL communication regarding wishes, prognosis and options for care rarely happen. We noted that patients lacked understanding of HF, feared engaging health care professionals (HCP), did not wish to talk about EOL, or waited for HCPs to initiate the conversation. HCPs lacked communication skills, focused on curative therapies and found diagnosing and prognosticating HF difficult. Limited time and space for conversations played a role.


The challenge of diagnosing and prognosticating HF, its unpredictable trajectory, HCP inexperience in recognizing nearing EOL and lack of communication skills lead to HCPs avoiding EOL conversations. Four categories of barriers to communication were identified: patient/caregiver, HCP, disease-specific and organizational challenges.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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