Study: Few hospital palliative care programs have adequate staffing

Most hospital palliative care programs do not meet national staffing guidelines, according to a new study in Health Affairs.

Researchers used data from the 2012–13 annual surveys of the National Palliative Care Registry to determine whether 410 hospital palliative care program teams meet national staffing guidelines, such as the Joint Commission's standard of including at least one physician, an advanced practice or other registered nurse, a social worker and a chaplain.

The study found only 25 percent of participating programs met that standard based on funded positions, and even when unfunded positions were included, only 39 percent of programs met the standard.

Additionally, only 272 (66.3 percent) of the 410 hospital palliative care programs had staffing coverage in accordance with the guidelines published by the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care.

Researchers said larger palliative care programs were more likely than smaller ones to include a funded physician position, while smaller programs relied more on advanced

practice and registered nurses.

The study also found that 95 percent of the 410 palliative care programs offered only a consulting service in which palliative care team members serve patients across all hospital units. The rest offered a consulting service as well as a dedicated palliative care unit.

The study authors, including two from the Center to Advance Palliative Care, call for expanded and enhanced education, as well as supportive financing mechanisms for consultations, to meet current and future palliative care needs.


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