Better education could help palliative care doctors look after young adults

by Stephanie Sivell Research Associate at the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre, Cardiff Stephanie Sivell, Research Associate at the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre, Cardiff



New research published today from the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre, Cardiff has recommended the development of an educational programme for specialist palliative care teams to help them to better care for young adults with a terminal illness.
Read the full paper Medical advances mean that many young people with a terminal illness are living into their mid-twenties and beyond with a range of ongoing or chronic conditions. On reaching ‘adulthood’, young people have to transition into adult services, including adult specialist palliative care. However, they may have needs that are complex and unfamiliar to adult services, and can therefore often go unmet. Lack of experience in caring for young people with life-limiting conditions is a concern for adult specialist palliative care service providers. Education package The aim of our study was to collect the views of professionals with expertise in caring for young people with life-limiting conditions. This will help develop an educational package to make sure adult specialist palliative care teams have the right skills. A survey was used to collate suggestions for the format, delivery and content of an education package. The participants agreed on a range of clinical, psychosocial and practical subjects that should be included in the education package. They also agreed that the package should be delivered as ‘part of an on-going’ or ‘rolling programme’ – not a ‘one-off’ event. There were no clear conclusions on who should deliver the educational programme, which suggests that it may need to involve a range of professionals. As a direct outcome of the results of our study, a ‘Transition Study Day’ series has been established in the UK, which started in 2013. This series of six linked study days focuses specifically on the issues around caring for young adults with life-limiting conditions and palliative care needs. The study day series are being evaluated, and we hope that by improving the knowledge and skill base of the professionals, their confidence will increase and lead to an improvement in the care of young people with life-limiting conditions.   This study was published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. Reference: Identifying the key elements of an education package to up-skill multidisciplinary adult specialist palliative care teams caring for young adults with life-limiting conditions: an online Delphi study. Stephanie Sivell, Victoria Lidstone,Mark Taubert,Catherine Thompson and Annmarie Nelson. BMJ Support Palliat Care. Online first 26 Mar 2014.