Background It is recognised that clinical staff in various specialities engage with the ideas of death and dying. Less recognition is given to the experiences of non-clinical staff in contact with palliative patients. We identified Jors (2017) study of domestic staff but found no research into the experiences of catering staff, a team who play a vital patient facing role within our hospice.
Aim To explore hospice catering staff’s experiences of patient interactions on the inpatient unit (IPU): to better understand these interactions and what support is required.
Methods An online questionnaire was sent to all catering staff at our three Hospice IPUs in October 2019. Consisting of 18 closed and 7 open questions, it was adapted from Jors (2017). It was made available for 1 month, with the results then analysed on Excel.
Results The response rate was 52% (12/23). All respondents felt providing support for patients was an important aspect of their role. 75% spent at least 15 minutes per shift speaking to patients. 75% spoke to patients about their illness at least once a week, with the same proportion speaking about death and dying at least once a week. However, whilst staff felt confident and well trained to discuss food and drink, the reverse was true when it came to discussing illness or dying. Time pressures and limited communication with the IPU team were highlighted as difficulties.
Conclusions Our findings are similar to those of Jors (2017) study of domestic staff. We found that our catering staff have regular patient contact and that they value time spent with patients. These interactions often go beyond addressing nutritional needs, even though this is not a formal part of their role. We will present suggestions for supporting staff when these conversations occur and suggestions for further research into this area.\
Jors K, Tietgen S, Xander C, Momm F and Becker G. Tidying rooms and tending hearts: an explorative, mixed-methods study of hospital cleaning staff’s experiences with seriously ill and dying patients. Palliative medicine 2017; 31(1): pp.63–71.)
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