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At the end of life, the need for care increases. Yet, for structurally vulnerable populations (i.e., people experiencing homelessness and poverty, racism, criminalization of illicit drug use, stigma associated with mental health), access to care remains highly inaccessible. Emerging research suggests that enhancing access to palliative care for these populations requires moving care from traditional settings, such as the hospital, into community settings, like shelters and onto the street. Thus, inner-city workers (ICWs) (e.g., housing support and community outreach) have the potential to play pivotal roles in improving access to care by integrating a “palliative approach to care” in their work.
Drawing upon observational field notes and interview data collected for a larger critical ethnographic study, this secondary thematic analysis examines ICWs’ (n = 31) experiences providing care for dying clients and garners their perspectives regarding the constraints and facilitators that exist in successfully integrating a palliative approach to care in their work.
Findings reveal three themes: (1) Approaches, awareness, and training; (2) Workplace policies and filling in the gaps; and (3) Grief, bereavement, and access to supports. In brief, ICWs who draw upon harm reduction strategies strongly parallel palliative approaches to care, although more knowledge/training on palliative approaches was desired. In their continuous work with structurally vulnerable clients, ICWs have the opportunity to build trusting relationships, and over time, are able to identify those in need and assist in providing palliative support. However, despite death and dying is an everyday reality of ICWs, many described a lack of formal acknowledgement by employers and workplace support as limitations.
Significance of results
Findings contribute promising practices for enhancing equitable access to palliative care for society's most vulnerable populations by prioritizing front-line workers’ perspectives on how best to integrate a palliative approach to care where structurally vulnerable populations live and die.
Spiritual care has formed an integral part of palliative care since its inception. People with advanced illnesses, however, frequently report that their spiritual needs are not attended to by their medical care team. The present study examines and describes the impact of a spiritual care training program on practice and cultural change in our Canadian hospice.
A qualitative case study approach was adopted to gather feedback from hospice staff and volunteers using purposive sampling. In-depth interviews were conducted, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic (semantic and latent) analysis.
Our data suggest that the program had a profound personal impact on attendees and contributed to a slight shift in practice patterns in our organization. Using a program not specifically tailored to our local and organizational cultural contexts resulted in some unanticipated challenges such as the range of tensions between personal and cultural boundaries. Although some people criticized parts of the program or questioned the program's value, a general agreement suggests that the program had a positive impact and meaningfully benefited our hospice. “What will happen next?” was the question most frequently voiced by interviewees.
Significance of results
Although the program may not have been a perfect fit for our organization, its use instigated a process of cultural change that unfolds today. The present study suggests that a systematic approach to spiritual care training that includes the concepts of workplace spirituality and sensitive practice offer useful frameworks for the development and implementation of spiritual care training in other institutions.
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