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Burnout syndrome is a work-related professional distress. Palliative care physicians often have to deal with complex end-of-life situations and are at risk of presenting with burnout syndrome, which has been little studied in this population. Our study aims to identify the impact of clinical settings (in a palliative care unit (PCU) or on a palliative care mobile team (PCMT)) on palliative care physicians.
We undertook a cross-sectional study using a questionnaire that included the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), and we gathered sociodemographic and professional data. The questionnaire was sent to all 590 physicians working in palliative care in France between July of 2012 and February of 2013.
The response rate was 61, 8% after three reminders. Some 27 (9%) participants showed high emotional exhaustion, 12 (4%) suffered from a high degree of depersonalization, and 71 (18%) had feelings of low personal accomplishment. Physicians working on a PCMT tended (p = 0.051) to be more likely to suffer from emotional exhaustion than their colleagues. Physicians working on a PCMT worked on smaller teams (fewer physicians, p < 0.001; fewer nonphysicians, p < 0.001). They spent less time doing research (p = 0.019), had fewer resources (p = 0.004), and their expertise seemed to be underrecognized by their colleagues (p = 0.023).
Significance of Results:
The prevalence of burnout in palliative care physicians was low and in fact lower than that reported in other populations (e.g., oncologists). Working on a palliative care mobile team can be a more risky situation, associated with a lack of medical and paramedical staff.
Our study aimed at examining nurses' perceptions of depression in cancer patients and their role in its management.
We employed questionnaire-based semi-directed interviews. Participants were asked to classify 22 symptoms (related and specific to depression in cancer patients, related but not specific, and unrelated) as “very important,” “important,” “less important,” or “not important” for the diagnosis of depression in cancer patients at two different timepoints (baseline and after a video education program). They were also asked to complete a questionnaire exploring their perceptions about depression and of their role in its systematic screening. We recruited nurses caring for cancer patients from four different departments (palliative care unit, hematology, medical oncology, and thoracic oncology) at an academic medical center.
We interviewed 18 nurses and found that they had a good general knowledge of depression in cancer patients, with the majority of them being able to distinguish specific and important symptoms from nonspecific symptoms. Some nurses considered depression as a second-line symptom, and most did not employ a screening tool in their daily practice. All considered that they had a role to play in the management of depression, even as they acknowledged lacking specific training for that task.
Significance of results:
Our results suggest that limited resources—especially lack of training—affects nurses' ability to correctly manage depression in their cancer patients.
Despite the rapidly growing availability of palliative care services, there is still much to be done in order to better support clinicians who are starting research programs. Among the barriers identified in the literature, methodological issues and lack of research training programs are often reported. Our aim was to describe an educational research method for healthcare professionals working in palliative care and to report the result of a survey conducted among a three-year sample of students.
The course was provided for a multidisciplinary group and was open to all healthcare professionals involved in palliative care. It took place over a single session during a full day. We used a 20-question e-survey to assess student outcomes (e.g., satisfaction, current status of their project).
We received answers from 83 of the 119 students (70%) who took the course. The majority were physicians (n = 62, 75%), followed by nurses (n = 17, 21%). During the class, students assessed the role of the teacher as an information provider (n = 51, 61%), role model (n = 36, 43%), and facilitator (n = 33, 40%), and considered all of these roles as suitable, with a score of 3.9–4.7 out of 5. Participants reported a high level of support from the teacher, with a mean score of 8.2 (SD, 1.7) out of 10, and good overall satisfaction with a mean score of 7.6 (1.8). Finally, 51 participants (77%) were able to start their research project after the class, 27 (41%) to complete it, and 8 (12%) to submit their research to a journal or conference.
Significance of results:
Our results suggest that newer teaching methods such as roleplay, group work, and target acquisition are feasible and effective in a palliative research curriculum. Additional studies are needed to confirm the objective outputs of educational interventions, including research outputs.
Depression is a serious issue for cancer patients, resulting in impaired quality of life and probably shorter survival. However, many cancer patients with depression are not treated because of the difficulties in identifying depression within this population. Our study aimed to examine caregivers' perceptions of depression among advanced cancer patients.
This qualitative study employed semistructured interviews, and we analyzed data using grounded theory and qualitative methods. We recruited caregivers from our palliative care unit (PCU) at an academic medical center.
We interviewed a total of 15 caregivers. Cancer patients' caregivers had a good theoretical knowledge of depression but also acknowledged that, in the context of cancer and because of their relationship with the patient, identification of depressive symptoms could be challenging. They considered themselves as partners in the patient's care with a supportive role. However, by assuming the role of partner in patient care, caregivers exposed themselves to emotional difficulties and an increased need for support and information.
Significance of Results:
Our results suggest a significant impact of depression in advanced cancer caregivers, and it is therefore crucial that healthcare professionals develop educational programs targeting cancer patients' families as well as specific interventions to minimize the impact of the burden of patient care on caregivers.
In a simultaneous care model, patients have concurrent access to both cancer-directed therapies and palliative care. As oncologists play a critical role in determining the need/timing of referral to palliative care programs, their understanding of the service and ability to communicate this with patients is of paramount importance. Our study aimed to examine oncologists' perceptions of the supportive care program at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and to determine whether renaming “palliative care” to “supportive care” influenced communication regarding referrals.
This qualitative study used semi-directed interviews, and we analyzed data using grounded theory and qualitative methods.
We interviewed 17 oncologists. Supportive care was perceived as an important time-saving application, and symptom control, transitioning to end-of-life care, family counseling, and improving patients' ability to tolerate cancer therapies were cited as important functions. Although most claimed that early referrals to the service are preferable, oncologists identified several challenges, related to the timing and communication with patients regarding the referral, as well as with the supportive care team after the referral was made. Whereas oncologists stated that the name change had no impact on their referral patterns, the majority supported it, as they perceived their patients preferred it.
Significance of results:
Although the majority of oncologists favorably viewed supportive care, communication barriers were identified, which need further confirmation. Simultaneous care models that effectively incorporate palliative care with cancer treatments need further development.
Depression is a frequent problem in cancer patients, which is known to reduce quality of life; however, many cancer patients with depression are not treated because of the difficulties in assessing depression in this population. Our aim was to evaluate and improve the depression assessment strategies of palliative care (PC) physicians and oncologists.
We invited all medical oncologists and PC physicians from three cancer centers to participate in this multicenter prospective study. They were asked to classify 22 symptoms (related and specific to depression in cancer patients, related but not specific, and unrelated) as “very important,” “important,” “less important,” or “not important” for the diagnosis of depression in cancer patients, at three different time points (at baseline, after a video education program, and after 4 weeks). They were also asked to complete a questionnaire exploring physicians' perceptions of depression and of their role in its systematic screening.
All 34 eligible physicians participated. Baseline performance was good, with >70% of participants correctly classifying at least seven of nine related and specific symptoms. We found no significant improvement in scores in the immediate and 4-week follow-up tests. Additionally, 24 (83%) and 23 (79%) participants expressed support for systematic depression screening and a role for oncologists in screening, respectively.
Significance of results:
Oncologists had good baseline knowledge about depression's main symptoms in cancer patients and a positive attitude toward being involved in screening. Underdiagnosis of depression is probably related to problems associated with the oncology working environment rather than the physicians' knowledge.
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