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Open Access Research article

Blended e-learning and end of life care in nursing homes: a small-scale mixed-methods case study

Conor JT Farrington

Author Affiliations

Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research (CCHSR), Cambridge Institute of Public Health, Forvie Site, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Box 113 Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Cambridge CB2 0SR, UK

BMC Palliative Care 2014, 13:31  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-13-31

Published: 16 June 2014

Abstract

Background

A ‘blended’ (e-learning and facilitated workshops) training course for Group C staff (i.e. staff with relatively infrequent contact with end of life care) has been delivered across several English counties with the aim of improving end of life care in nursing and residential care homes. This paper evaluates the impact of the course on participants’ understandings of and confidence in delivering end of life care in one nursing home, while also considering barriers to change in practice.

Methods

A mixed-methods case study approach, incorporating pre- and post-course questionnaires (SHA East of England End of Life Care Education Programme ‘ABC’ Project Work Force C or Non Nurse Workforce B Pre and Post Course Questionnaire; E-Learning in End of Life Care Study Pre and Post Course Questionnaire), documentary analysis, semi-structured interviews, and observation of course workshops. Participants were 20 members of staff at a nursing home in a city in the East of England, including 14 Health Care Assistants (carers) and 6 others (administrative, activities, hosting, and catering staff). The questionnaires and interviews assessed understandings of and confidence towards end of life care delivery.

Results

Improvements in participants’ confidence in delivering end of life care were observed, particularly in the core competency areas of symptom management, communication, and advance care planning. A shift towards more detailed and more holistic understandings of end of life care was in evidence; some participants also championed end of life care in the home as a result of the course. Several barriers to changes in practice were encountered, including uneven participation, the absence of mechanisms for disseminating new insights and knowledge within the home, and a widespread perception that nurses’ professional dominance in the home made sustainable change difficult to enact.

Conclusions

While blended e-learning courses have the potential to generate positive change in participants’ understandings of and confidence about End of Life Care, organizational and inter-professional obstacles must be overcome in order to translate these changes into improved end of life care delivery in nursing (and residential) homes.

Keywords:
Training; E-learning; End of life care; Nursing home care