Longitudinal Evaluation of a Pediatric Palliative Care Educational Workshop for Oncology Fellows

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Purpose: Health care providers have reported inadequate training, poor institutional support, and discomfort in managing pediatric end-of-life (EOL) issues. As a result, the transition to palliative care may be late and abrupt, and children may experience significant suffering at EOL. In this pilot study, we developed and longitudinally evaluated the efficacy of a pediatric palliative care workshop to enhance training for medical fellows. Methods: Thirty-two pediatric oncology fellows participated in a day-long workshop on palliative care, including topics on pain and symptom management, ethics, communication, and grief. Barriers, attitudes, and knowledge with regard to pediatric palliative care were assessed immediately before the workshop and 6 and 12 months later. Knowledge was also assessed immediately after the workshop. Twenty fellows completed all assessments. Results: At 6 and 12 months, staff discomfort with death and lack of knowledge were the most frequently cited barriers to providing effective EOL care. Perceived competence and comfort in EOL care improved over time, while beliefs remained relatively open and stable. Overall knowledge of pediatric palliative care improved post-workshop and at 6 months, then stabilized. Knowledge of general pediatric issues, ethics, and communication did not change, while knowledge of pain management, symptom management, and grief showed initial improvement then varying patterns of change over time. Conclusions: Although perceived competence and comfort with palliative care improved, the workshop did not uniformly produce lasting improvements in knowledge. Sustained knowledge will likely require more intensive training in palliative care. Continued research and evaluation of similar educational programs are needed.