A qualitative study exploring challenges and solutions to negotiating goals of care at the end of life in hospital settings

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Background: Negotiating goals of care (GoC) with patients is an essential skill for all health-care professionals (HCPs) in hospitals. End-of-Life Essentials (EOLE) is a Commonwealth-funded project that delivers free, peer-reviewed, evidence-based, online education and practice change resources. To date, around 26 000 doctors, nurses and allied health professionals have registered to access the education. 'Planning End-of-Life Care - Goals of Care' features in the suite of EOLE modules and includes education around negotiating GoC with patients and families.

Objective: The aim of the study was to explore the views of module learners (HCPs) on challenges they have faced when negotiating GoC at the EOL with patients and families. 

Methods: Participants were learners (HCPs) who registered to the EOLE website and engaged with the GoC module. Learners' responses to the question posed at the end of the module 'What are the hardest or most challenging things about negotiating GoC with patients and families?' were extracted for a 12-month period. Qualitative data were analysed thematically in NVivo V.12, guided by the theoretical framework of pragmatism. An open, inductive approach was used to code the data, with axial coding used to refine and organize themes and subthemes. 

Results: A total of 451 learner statements were analysed. Five themes emerged from the data: (i) differing views and opinions; (ii) challenges to understanding; (iii) managing emotions; (iv) initiating the EOL conversation and (v) lack of professional knowledge or capacity. Five subthemes were also organized under the theme 'differing views and opinions'. 

Conclusion: Planning EOL care demands high-level, compassionately skilful and sensitive care and services, which are in line with the patient's and family's wishes. In practice, however, there are many challenges to this, such as ensuring that patients, families, and HCPs are aware of different expectations regarding future health-care possibilities, and that HCPs are prepared for negotiating GoC to achieve quality and safe EOL care in hospitals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermzac089
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal For Quality in Health Care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2022


  • end-of-life care
  • goals of care
  • hospital care
  • negotiation
  • online learning
  • patient-centred care
  • shared decision-making


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