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White et al1 highlight that death and dying is everyone’s business, yet is often neglected in the training of multidisciplinary health professionals (MDHP). While physicians play a critical role in end-of-life care, patients interact with a range of health professionals. As such, it is vital that MDHP are also trained in palliative care, including end-of-life communication. Nursing and allied health professionals also spend considerable time with patients developing strong therapeutic relationships fundamental to the success of challenging conversations when adjusting to incurable illness.2 3
Nevertheless, White et al’s survey noted considerable variability in the availability of palliative care and end-of-life-related content in UK-based undergraduate nursing and allied health courses. Only 16% of the social work courses surveyed included such training. Similarly, in Australia, 96% of MDHP perceived that their undergraduate education had underprepared them for the clinical realities of working with palliative care patients.4
Consistent with identified gaps in the literature, White et al’s survey did not include psychologists. Psychologists are ideally placed to provide specialist end-of-life care as they are already trained in sophisticated communication skills and have the capacity to navigate challenging emotional terrain. Assisting individuals grappling with uncertainty, anxiety, grief and loss, demoralisation and hopelessness is psychologists’ ‘core business’. Further training to apply these high-level therapeutic skills to end-of-life care is critical. Vivekananda et al interviewed psychologists, many of whom had specialist end-of-life experience (21/35, 60%) and …
Collaborators In addition to the named authors, the final group author ‘PoCoG End of Life Care Special Interest Group’ also includes Catherine Bauld, Vanessa Beesley, Pippa Blackburn, Natalie Bradford, Brenda Clasquin, Kerrie Clover, Anna Collins, Richard Egan, Baby Foo, Helen Haydon, Kate Hetherington, Sarah Heynemann, Melissa Hilson, Madeleine Juhrmann, Belinda Kiely, Madeleine King, Geraldine Largey, Fiona Maccallum, Catherine Mason, Nikki McCaffrey, Naomi McGowan, Natasha McGrath, Natasha Michael, Jan Obery, Catherine Olsson, Kim Pearce, James Penhale, Astrid Przezdziecki, Gayle Richardson, Jodie Rosenberg, Jessica Roydhouse, Mary Scott, Betty Servis, Seleena Sherwell, Evelien Spelten, Lesley Stafford, Jane Turner and Jessica Turner.
Contributors UMS-D developed the concept and first draft of this manuscript together with EAL and HEE. All coauthors were involved in the subsequent development, editing and refinement of the manuscript. All authors have approved the final manuscript.
Funding UMS-D is supported by Early Career Fellowships from the Cancer Institute New South Wales (CINSW) (ID: 2020/ECF1163) and the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia (ID: APP1111800). UMS-D’s end-of-life communication research program is supported by grants from the HCF Research Foundation, the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Global Accord and through a clinical-academic mentoring award from the Palliative Care Clinical Academic Group of the Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise. The Behavioural Science Unit is proudly supported by the Kids with Cancer Foundation and by the Kids Cancer Alliance as well as a Cancer Council New South Wales Program Grant PG16-02 with the support of the Estate of the Late Harry McPaul.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval Ethical approval for this study was provided by the University of New South Wales Human Research Ethics Committee (HC number: HC190312).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
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