Providing care and sharing expertise: reflections of nurse-specialists in palliative home care

Antonia Arnaert, Megan Wainwright
Palliative & Supportive Care 2009, 7 (3): 357-64

OBJECTIVE: This study explored the experiences, perspectives, and reflections of five nurse-specialists in palliative home care, whose dual role includes caring for patients in their daily practice as well as sharing their knowledge, skills, expertise, and experiences with other home care nurses in the community.

METHODS: A qualitative research design, incorporating face-to-face semistructured interviews, was used. Interviews were based on open-ended questions such as: "What is your experience in providing palliative home care to patients and their families? How do you feel about sharing your expertise and experiences with home care nurses?" Data were content analyzed using the constant comparative method.

RESULTS: Three major themes and a number of subthemes emerged: (1) acknowledging one's own limitations and humanness: (a) calling for backup, (b) learning as we go along, (c) coping with emotional demands, and (d) interacting with family members; (2) building a collaborative partnership: (a) working collaboratively, (b) sharing information, (c) guiding home care nurses, and (d) being nonjudgmental; and (3) teamwork and implementing palliative home care teams.

SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Nurse-specialists play a key role in palliative home care as both carers and as resources of expert knowledge for other home care nurses caring for palliative patients. As the population ages, the health care system will be faced with increasing requests for high-quality palliative home care. The results of this study demonstrate that, from the perspective of the nurse-specialists of NOVA-Montréal (a nonprofit social and health service organization), nurse-specialists can work collaboratively with home care nurses to improve patients' quality of care and their quality of life. Moreover, patients and their families would benefit from the more widespread establishment of palliative care teams within community health organizations.

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