Mind the gap: is the Canadian long-term care workforce ready for a palliative care mandate?

The average expected lifespan in Canadian long-term care (LTC) homes is now less than two years post-admission, making LTC a palliative care setting. As little is known about the readiness of LTC staff in Canada to embrace a palliative care mandate, the main objective of this study was to assess qualities relevant to palliative care, including personal emotional wellbeing, palliative care self-efficacy and person-centred practices (e.g. knowing the person, comfort care). A convenience sample of 228 professional and non-professional staff (e.g. nurses and nursing assistants) across four Canadian LTC homes participated in a survey. Burnout, secondary traumatic stress and poor job satisfaction were well below accepted thresholds, e.g. burnout: mean = 20.49 (standard deviation (SD) = 5.39) for professionals; mean = 22.09 (SD = 4.98) for non-professionals; cut score = 42. Furthermore, only 0–1 per cent of each group showed a score above cut-off for any of these variables. Reported self-efficacy was moderate, e.g. efficacy in delivery: mean = 18.63 (SD = 6.29) for professionals; mean = 15.33 (SD = 7.52) for non-professionals; maximum = 32. The same was true of self-reported person-centred care, e.g. knowing the person; mean = 22.05 (SD = 6.55) for professionals; mean = 22.91 (SD = 6.16) for non-professionals; maximum = 35. t-Tests showed that non-professional staff reported relatively higher levels of burnout, while professional staff reported greater job satisfaction and self-efficacy (p < 0.05). There was no difference in secondary traumatic stress or person-centred care (p > 0.05). Overall, these results suggest that the emotional wellbeing of the Canadian LTC workforce is unlikely to impede effective palliative care. However, palliative care self-efficacy and person-centred care can be further cultivated in this context.

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