Refractory suffering: The impact of team dynamics on the interdisciplinary palliative care team

K Swetenham, Margaret Hegarty, Katrina Breaden, Carol Grbich

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: This qualitative study aimed to describe the skill sets that experienced palliative care clinicians possess when managing refractory suffering.Method: Thirteen tape recorded semi-structured interviews and four online questionnaires were completed by participants with at least two years clinical palliative care experience. The research team undertook cross sectional thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews.Results: In the face of refractory suffering, team cohesion was identified as a key requirement to support the interdisciplinary team. However, team cohesion was found to be undermined by philosophical differences between team members, a paradigm shift concerning cure versus care and individual opinions regarding the chosen approach and levels of respect between the individual disciplines involved in the care of a person with a life limiting illness.Significance of results: The findings of this study highlight the precarious nature of the interdisciplinary team when significant challenges are faced. As a result of witnessing refractory suffering the division and fracturing of teams can easily occur; often team members are completely unaware of its cause. The findings of this study contribute to the limited literature on the nature of refractory suffering from the perspective of the interdisciplinary team.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-62
    Number of pages8
    JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


    • End-of-life issues
    • Interdisciplinary teams
    • Palliative care
    • Refractory suffering


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