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Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2019 Mar;19(3):249-253. doi: 10.1111/ggi.13600. Epub 2019 Jan 8.

Physician's perception leading to the transfer of a dying nursing home resident to an emergency department: A French qualitative study.

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Department of Palliative Care, Hospital Center Lyon-Sud, Lyon's Civil Hospitals, Pierre-Bénite, France.



The aim of the present study was to find out physicians' perceptions about the transfer of dying nursing home residents to emergency departments.


This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews, and data were analyzed using qualitative methods. Participants were medical directors of nursing homes who were informed by e-mail and included when they agreed to take part in our study.


We interviewed 12 medical directors until data saturation. The following themes emerged: (i) related to the resident - difficulties in identifying the end of life, refractory symptoms and lack of knowledge of the resident's wishes; (ii) related to the family - denial of the end of life/fear of death, lack of confidence in the nursing home and conflict among family members; (iii) related to the nursing staff - fear of death, lack of communication, lack of training, lack of staff (especially of nurses during the nightshift) and use of temporary employees; and (iv) related to the physicians - lack of anticipation of the end of life situation, difficulty in accessing some drugs, inadequate working hours in the nursing home, conflicting medical opinions of the GP and medical director, and lack of training on palliative care issues.


These results suggest many ways of reducing the transfer of dying residents to emergency departments through palliative care training, and communication about advance care planning. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2019; 19: 249-253.


emergency department; end of life; nursing home; palliative care


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