Background National guidelines place an emphasis on patients, carers and health professionals being able to access specialist palliative care advice at all times (National Council for Palliative Care, 2015; Department of Health, 2008). The advice line enables this timely support and guidance. However, whilst running alongside the Inpatient Unit, the specific skills and knowledge required to handle calls can be overlooked (Carr, Lhussier & Wilcockson, 2008).
Aims To support all Registered Nurses working on the Inpatient Unit to feel more confident and competent in taking advice line calls (Purc- Stephenson & Thrasher, 2010) delivering up to date, safe and consistent advice, whilst enabling a culture of feedback and support.
The development of advice line training following consultation with unit staff, feedback from other hospices and literature review, with sessions balancing specific telephone communication skills alongside clinical knowledge and practical elements (Yardley, Codling, Roberts, O’Donnell et al., 2009);
The implementation of a new framework to help guide more complex calls – encouraging staff to think of completing a jigsaw puzzle without being able to see the picture on the box, and by putting together ‘pieces’ of information to guide the advice given by remembering to ‘delve’ and ‘tell me more…’;
The commencement of regular feedback sessions enabling protected time for staff to ‘offload’, discuss difficult calls and for feedback and ongoing teaching from an Inpatient Unit Consultant or other palliative care professional;
The development of an information pack to accompany training and an advice line resource folder for staff to reference during calls.
Conclusion Acknowledging that for some staff the advice line can be stressful, the implementation of training and support has had a very positive impact, with staff reporting a more confident approach when taking calls. The new resources have been welcomed and already proven useful, particularly when dealing with medication related calls. This work is already enabling the delivery of more consistent, confident and quality advice and in time this will undoubtedly increase caller satisfaction (Moscato, Valanis, Gullion, Tanner et al., 2007).
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