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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • death;
  • district nursing;
  • dying;
  • evaluation research;
  • nurse education;
  • palliative care

Abstract

Title. Improving district nurses’ confidence and knowledge in the principles and practice of palliative care.

Aim.  This paper is a report of part of an evaluation of the impact of a national palliative care education and support programme on the knowledge and confidence of members of district nursing teams.

Background.  District nursing teams are the mainstay of ‘hands on’ provision of care at home. In recognition of their central role, the English Department of Health commissioned a national palliative care education programme as postregistration education had been limited.

Methods.  The evaluation, conducted between 2002 and 2004, had a mixed methods design. In the summative component, 1280 nurses were randomly selected from eight cancer networks to receive postal questionnaires 1 year apart, before and after the educational intervention. Changes in scores were calculated and a multiple regression analysis undertaken to identify predictors of improvement in confidence in competence and knowledge. The formative component involved qualitative interviews with a sub-sample of 39 district nurses participating in the programme.

Findings.  Nurses who responded in both years (374/32%) were included in the analysis. There was a small statistically significant increase in confidence in palliative care competency and knowledge after participation in the educational programmes. Nurses without district nursing qualifications and who had never worked in specialist palliative care had the largest improvements in scores. Qualitative data supported these findings.

Conclusion.  The findings suggest that the education programme led to improvements in self-reported district nursing confidence in palliative care competencies and knowledge; it is likely that the baseline level of palliative care confidence in competency and knowledge has as a result been raised nationally.