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Educational needs of nursing home staff: does a needs-based palliative care course make a difference?


Objective In Singapore, more elderly are living in nursing homes (NHs), with a resultant increase in deaths occurring in NHs. However, palliative care training is limited in Singapore’s core nursing curriculum, and many NHs rely on foreign-trained staff who may not have previous palliative care training. Our study aimed to evaluate whether a needs-based course can improve the palliative care knowledge and attitudes of NH nurses in Singapore.

Methods Twenty-five nurses participated in the study. The intervention was an 8-week palliative care course developed based on needs assessment and led by a multidisciplinary faculty. A 50-item knowledge test was administered at baseline and 0 day and 3 and 6 months postcourse. Semistructured interviews were conducted at 3 months to assess for changes in attitudes and nursing practices.

Results The mean knowledge score increased significantly from 31.4 (±4.4) precourse to 35.1 (±5.1) at 3 months. Knowledge scores in end-of-life care increased up to 6 months, and scores for pain and symptom management increased significantly at 3 months. Participants reported a positive change with improved communication skills and increased compassion. There was a lack of opportunities to apply some new knowledge and skills due to regulations and perceived residents’ preferences to engage more local senior staff.

Conclusion The multidisciplinary needs-based palliative care course using various teaching modalities with follow-up knowledge tests helped to increase knowledge and improve communication skills and attitudes of NH nurses towards palliative care. The increase in knowledge and positive change in attitudes was noted to be sustained for at least 3 months postcourse.

  • education and training
  • nursing home care

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