Worldwide, the population is ageing – and with it comes a rise in chronic diseases.

In fact, the UN predicts that by 2030, one in six people will be over the age of 60.

It is predicted that demand for palliative care will rise significantly over coming decades in most countries.

Therefore, palliative care has become integral to the role of healthcare staff in residential aged care all around the world.

And yet challenges within this work environment – the huge workload, low staffing levels and limited resources – may impact on staffs’ willingness to undertake formal palliative care education.  

One New Zealand based research looked into why there is a lack of palliative training in healthcare staff, by surveying more than 400 aged care staff.

Majority of respondents were female with around 4-10 years experience and aged care.

Of the total amount, only 199 of the staff has previously undertaken palliative care training.

However, 399 said that they would like more palliative care training – indicating that there is a desire to learn more and upskill in order to offer better care.  

Through the research, it was found that there was four main factor potentially influencing uptake of formal palliative care training;

Service Accessibility

Palliative care requires a lot of extra support. Not only does it require aged care staff, but palliative care also involves GP’s and other health support.

The challenges in accessing this support makes it challenging for aged care staff to provide adequate palliative care to those who need it.

Palliative Care Communications Environment

On average staff agreed that their contributions to the palliative care needs of residents were valued. However, in general staff perceived they did not have enough time to spend with dying resident.

Lack of resources and time often found aged care staff focussing more on resident whose demise were not so imminent.

Palliative Care Experience

Having had previous experience caring for people who were receiving palliative care the more likely they were to want to increase their education.

Which meant the results indicated a lack of exposure to palliative care meant that aged care nurses did not feel the need to seek out more education.

Conversely, when a nurse did spend time with an end-of-life patient, it led to them receiving more education as they wanted to learn more ways to help the dying.

Staff wellbeing

Burnout appeared to play the biggest role in preventing aged care staff from seeking out more palliative care education.

Heavy workloads, low staffing levels, conflicting expectations and too few resources have also been linked to the experience of ‘burnout.’

With more staff support and time, it would be more accessible for aged care staff to get more palliative support and upskilling.

Another factor the research found was that there was a lack of motivation. This included limited incentives for staff to encourage them to undertake extra educations.

Nurses and carers want to know more about palliative care. They are in an industry that requires them to help the sick and the dying, but without available time and resources, many find it challenging to take on formal training.

New design and delivery of palliative care education programmes should be developed to successfully meet the needs of residents and healthcare staff.

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