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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Implementing advance care planning: a qualitative study of community nurses' views and experiences

Jane Seymour*, Kathryn Almack and Sheila Kennedy

Author Affiliations

School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy, University of Nottingham, Queen's Medical Centre, Derby Road, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK

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BMC Palliative Care 2010, 9:4  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-9-4

Published: 8 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Advance care planning (ACP) is a process of discussion about goals of care and a means of setting on record preferences for care of patients who may lose capacity or communication ability in the future. Implementation of ACP is widely promoted by policy makers. This study examined how community palliative care nurses in England understand ACP and their roles within ACP. It sought to identify factors surrounding community nurses' implementation of ACP and nurses' educational needs.

Methods

An action research strategy was employed. 23 community nurses from two cancer networks in England were recruited to 6 focus group discussions and three follow up workshops. Data were analysed using a constant comparison approach.

Findings

Nurses understood ACP to be an important part of practice and to have the potential to be a celebration of good nursing care. Nurses saw their roles in ACP as engaging with patients to elicit care preferences, facilitate family communication and enable a shift of care focus towards palliative care. They perceived challenges to ACP including: timing, how to effect team working in ACP, the policy focus on instructional directives which related poorly to patients' concerns; managing differences in patients' and families' views. Perceived barriers included: lack of resources; lack of public awareness about ACP; difficulties in talking about death. Nurses recommended the following to be included in education programmes: design of realistic scenarios; design of a flow chart; practical advice about communication and documentation; insights into the need for clinical supervision for ACP practice.

Conclusions

Nurses working in the community are centrally involved with patients with palliative care needs who may wish to set on record their views about future care and treatment. This study reveals some important areas for practice and educational development to enhance nurses' use and understanding of ACP.