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Milestones: a mixed methods study of an educational intervention to improve care of the dying


Background Approximately 460 000 people die annually in England. Three-quarters of these deaths are expected. Health Education England is prioritising upskilling of clinical staff in response to reports of poor care quality in the last days of life in acute hospitals, where almost half of all deaths occur. This study explores the impact of an end-of-life care (EoLC) educational intervention, Milestones, in acute hospital trusts in Greater London.

Methods This is a mixed methods study. Learners completed a questionnaire pre- (n=452), immediately post- (n=488) and 3 to 8 months post- (n=37) intervention. The questionnaire measured learner confidence in EoLC covering the National Health Service adopted ‘Priorities for the Care of the Dying Person’. Paired t-tests were used to determine statistically significant difference in learner confidence pre- and post-intervention. A convenience sample of learners (n=7) and educators (n=5) were recruited to qualitative semi-structured interviews that sought to understand if, how and why Milestones worked. Data were analysed using a thematic approach.

Results A statistically significant increase in learner confidence across all five priorities of care’ was sustained up to 8 months (p<0.001). Interviewees wanted to discuss wider challenges in EoLC related to the organisations and cultural contexts in which they worked. Concerns included balancing hope when decision-making, learning as a multidisciplinary team and emotional impact.

Conclusion The findings suggest that Milestones is a flexible, beneficial resource for teaching EoLC that facilitates enhanced learner engagement. Understanding generated about wider concerns can inform future educational material development, organisational process and research study design.

  • education and training
  • hospital care
  • terminal care

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