Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management


Context: COVID-19 created unprecedented demand for palliative care at a time when in-person communication was highly restricted, straining efforts to care for patients and families.

Objectives: To qualitatively explore the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic from the perspective of palliative care clinicians. Specifically we sought to: 1) Describe the strategies adopted by palliative care clinicians to cope with new challenges including patient and clinician isolation, prognostication of an emergent disease, and rapidly rising numbers of severely ill patients; 2) Identify additions or adjustments to in-person and system-related palliative care training, methods, and tools made during pandemics.

Methods: This descriptive qualitative study utilized a thematic approach for data analysis of individual, semi-structured interviews with palliative care clinicians (n = 25). Codes, categories, and emerging themes were identified through an iterative, comparative method. Methods align with the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) RESULTS: A theme of "Expanding the reach of palliative care for today and the future" was identified with three subthemes: 1) Redefining attitudes and hardship due to collective uncertainty, 2) Breaking with the past towards integrated concept of palliative care, and 3) Building capacity through primary palliative care training.

Conclusion: COVID-19 forced hospital systems to consider the inclusion of palliative care in unforeseen ways due to an uncontrollable, unpredictable disease. Faced with unprecedented uncertainty, palliative care clinicians utilized strategies for integration and innovation across hospitals, particularly in intensive care units and emergency departments. A need to build capacity through increased primary palliative care access and training was identified.



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COVID-19, Palliative, culture, interdisciplinary, qualitative, training