End-of-Life Care Poses Pros and Cons for Clinicians

A recent study analyzed the benefits and work-related stressors of end-of-life care.

Providing end-of-life care for patients with cancer can be both rewarding and challenging for oncology nurses. A multidisciplinary approach is crucial to ensuring high-quality care and mitigating work-related stressors for clinicians working in hospice.

“The demand for hospice services for patients requiring professional supportive care at the end of life for chronic, life-limiting conditions such as cancer has grown substantively in the current health care environment,” said Rebecca H. Lehto, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate professor at the Michigan State University College of Nursing.

“Despite the role of the interdisciplinary team and the need for interprofessional engagement, few studies have engaged a team methodology to elicit hospice workers perspectives of the work environment,” she added.

Lehto and her colleagues recently interviewed clinicians who work in end-of-life care to better understand their perceptions on the job.

Findings, which were presented at the 46th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress, showed that benefits of working in end-of-life care included making meaningful differences in the lives of patients and their families; receiving positive feedback; and teamwork.

However, that did not mean that careers in this environment were not without issues. Commonly reported stressors included:

  • Issues with workload
  • Issues with technology
  • Administrative demands
  • Travel-related problems
  • Communication and care interruptions
  • Maintaining a work-life balance
  • Coping with witnessing grief/loss

Clinicians who were interviewed experienced “episodic, short-lived burnout,” but were taking steps to alleviate those feelings. Lehto also explained that strategies must be put in place to support the needs for these health care workers.

“At an organizational level, a multi-pronged approach that includes both personal and occupational strategies is needed to support hospice professionals across disciplines and for mitigating perceived stressors associated with this essential work.”

Reference

Lehto RH, Heeteer C, Forman J, et al. Work-related Stressors Impacting End of Life Care in Hospice: A Focus Group Study. Presented at: Oncology Nursing Society 46th Annual Congress. April 20, 22, 27, 29, 2021.