Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) in palliative care have been encouraged to extend their role. Many see these developments as an opportunity to improve the care of their patients and the therapeutic relationship. Courses in physical assessment skills often extend learning beyond the specialist needs of a hospice CNS. It was our experience that learning was then diluted and failed to meet more specific needs in the context of palliative care.
In response, St Wilfrid’s Hospice developed a three-day focused physical assessment skills course for the hospice CNS, delivered to two groups of six students. During the three days participants were provided with a comprehensive course booklet and participated in a mixture of didactic and practical skills sessions.
Topics focused on clinical assessment of the chest, abdomen, cardiovascular and neurological systems, a painful leg, and mental health assessment; with particular reference to case scenarios commonly seen among hospice patients. 100% of the students rated the course as excellent for structure, content, relevance and application. All agreed they would recommend this course to others. On a scale of 0–10 (10 being fully competent and 0 Clueless) students rated their skills prior to the course and on completion as follows
Students who completed the course went on to use their skills in their daily practice and have provided verbal feedback on the positive impact it has had on their patient care and relationships with medical colleagues. We would like to be able to offer this model of specialist palliative care physical assessment skills training to other hospices.
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