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BMC Palliat Care. 2018 Apr 18;17(1):63. doi: 10.1186/s12904-018-0318-0.

Exploring the meaning and practice of self-care among palliative care nurses and doctors: a qualitative study.

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Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, QLD, Australia.
Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia.
School of Nursing, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, QLD, 4061, Australia.
Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia.



Self-care practice within the palliative care workforce is often discussed, yet seemingly under-researched. While palliative care professionals are required to implement and maintain effective self-care strategies, there appears little evidence to guide them. Moreover, there is an apparent need to clarify the meaning of self-care in palliative care practice. This paper reports qualitative findings within the context of a broader mixed-methods study. The aim of the present study was to explore the meaning and practice of self-care as described by palliative care nurses and doctors.


A purposive sample of 24 palliative care nurses and doctors across Australia participated in semi-structured, in-depth interviews. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed prior to inductive qualitative content analysis, supported by QSR NVivo data management software.


Three overarching themes emerged from the analysis: (1) A proactive and holistic approach to promoting personal health and wellbeing to support professional care of others; (2) Personalised self-care strategies within professional and non-professional contexts; and (3) Barriers and enablers to self-care practice.


The findings of this study provide a detailed account of the context and complexity of effective self-care practice previously lacking in the literature. Self-care is a proactive, holistic, and personalised approach to the promotion of health and wellbeing through a variety of strategies, in both personal and professional settings, to enhance capacity for compassionate care of patients and their families. This research adds an important qualitative perspective and serves to advance knowledge of both the context and effective practice of self-care in the palliative care workforce.


Palliative care; Positive emotions; Self-care; Self-compassion; Workforce

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