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Health professionals in China tend to avoid open communication with terminally ill cancer patients concerning their diagnosis and prognosis. This review aims to explore Chinese cultural beliefs and attitudes concerning disclosure and death among health professionals and cancer patients in China and to investigate preferences of terminally ill cancer patients for a “good death.”
A narrative literature review was conducted in May 2020 on MEDLINE, EMBASE, and WEB OF SCIENCE to include all studies with clear study design which presented its own study data or referred to data within underlying studies, published between January 2000 and May 2020, having cancer patients and/or healthcare professionals as participants, conducted in Mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan and containing relevant data concerning “medical disclosure” or “good death.” Quality assessment of publications was conducted using the NIH and CASP checklists.
Primary database search revealed a total of 108 papers of which 9 were ultimately included. The additional hand search led to the inclusion of eight further papers. In total, there were 11 quantitative studies, 4 qualitative studies and 2 literature reviews included in this review. Our findings indicated that most terminally ill cancer patients in China want to know the truth about their diagnosis and prognosis and preferred to be informed by their doctors. Terminally ill cancer patients valued a good relationship with family and medical staff as well as being respected as an individual and wanted to be able to prepare for death.
Significance of results
Terminally ill cancer patients in China often have a substantial need for information about their condition while their preferences are widely consistent with those in Western societies. Training for health professionals needs to focus on communication skills in order to overcome barriers in patient interaction.
China is home to one-fifth of the world's population. In the setting of a growing and aging population as well as the designation of palliative care access as a human right in 2013, the implementation of palliative care in China gains special importance. Palliative care education is an important precondition to ensure a nationwide access to palliative care. This systematic review details the status of under- and postgraduate palliative care education in China, examining both the students’ and physicians’ perception, knowledge, and skills in palliative care, and the available educational interventions and programs.
Four databases were searched in September 2018, using considered search terms. Titles, abstracts, and, if necessary, full texts were scanned to identify publications matching the inclusion criteria.
Nine publications were included. They revealed six findings: palliative care education is lacking in both under- and postgraduate medical education, only a few programs exist. Palliative care as a concept is well known, detailed knowledge, and practical skills are less developed. Chinese physicians consider palliative care an important field to be developed in cancer care, yet the majority of healthcare professionals are not willing to work in palliative care services. Communication should be a main emphasis in palliative care education, especially in undergraduate training. Finally, there is no highly qualified research on under- or postgraduate palliative care education in Mainland China.
Significance of results
These findings suggest that palliative care education in China is in demand and should be systematically integrated into medical education. Further research on the topic is urgently needed.
Palliative care training at basic, intermediate, and specialist levels, recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), is challenging to access in resource-poor countries and regions. Providing support in this regard would seem a moral imperative for all countries with established palliative care education systems and a strong resource base. In collaboration with WHO European Office and European Association for Palliative Care, this paper looks into the educational requirements in palliative care at postgraduate level within Europe.
A survey was specifically designed to gather opinions and comments on elements of palliative care education from European experts. Participants were invited to assess the European Association for Palliative Care core competencies on a five-item scale and to define essential learning goals. Survey data were statistically analyzed using IBM SPSS Statistics Software. Qualitative data were thematically analyzed.
A total of 195 data sets were recorded; 82 were completed fully. The statistical analysis revealed a high agreement regarding the key elements of palliative care education. The thematic analysis indicated that at postgraduate level all healthcare providers need to (1) comprehend the palliative care philosophy, (2) be able to demonstrate the complex symptom assessment and management competencies, (3) be able to design care plans based on patients and families wishes integrating multiprofessional and interdisciplinary approaches, and (4) be able to listen and self-reflect.
Significance of results
According to the WHO, inadequate skills and capacities of healthcare workers are one of the four barriers hindering the access to palliative care. This paper contains a new and comprehensive list of learning goals essential for multidisciplinary postgraduate palliative care education. Besides highlighting the relevant competencies, the article provides best-practice toolboxes with teaching and assessment methods. The article comments on the WHO's palliative care definition and underpins the importance of the role of the education in knowledge development and skills acquisition.
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