Att fokusera på "varandet" i en värld av görande stöd till personalen i ett palliativt förhållningssätt vid vård- och omsorgsboende för äldre
Sammanfattning: Popular Abstract in English Background Palliative care is an approach characterized by a holistic view of the person, which supports the individual for living with dignity and with the best possible level of wellbeing until the end of life. Earlier studies have shown that older people do not have the same access to palliative care as younger people do. One reason for this could be that it is difficult to identify the breakpoint for palliative care, as older people often have many progressive diseases at the same time meaning that the palliative phase is recognised only days before their death. Older people living in residential care facilities are often frail with many coexisting diseases and health complaints, and in need of extensive care. There are studies showing that about 40 per cent of those moving in to residential care facilities die within a nine-month period. Those who, in practice, provide care in residential care facilities are nurse assistants i.e. licensed practical nurses and nurse aides, a workgroup with limited education. They also often stand alone with difficult decisions with regard to the care provision, as the registered nurse has the role of consultant rather than leader. This implies that the nurse assistants have an extensive responsibility for the palliative care in residential care facilities. The frame of the thesis This thesis has been carried out within the frame of a larger study with the aim of investigating how municipal palliative care was being communicated and organized and of evaluating the effect of an intervention with a focus on a palliative care approach, targeting nurse assistants in residential care facilities. The intervention consisted of study circles with nurse assistants as well as workshops together with their leaders i.e. managers and registered nurses. The workshops focused on the improvement of work at the facility. A total of 75 nurse assistants participated in the study circles and answered a questionnaire consisting of several measurements at baseline and at two follow-ups, directly after the intervention, and 6-month follow-ups, in comparison with 110 nurse assistants who served as controls. Aim The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate the nurse assistants’ experience of palliative care but also to investigate how an intervention with a focus on a palliative care approach in residential care facilities influenced the nurse assistants and their work situation. The thesis is based on four studies with the following specific aims: to illuminate nurse assistants’ experience of palliative care for older people in residential care (I); to investigate the effects of the intervention focusing on a palliative care approach in residential care on the nurse assistants’ level of strain, job satisfaction, and view of leadership (II), care provision and the caring climate’ (III), and to describe their experience of how the intervention had influenced them in their work (IV). Methods Two of the studies were qualitative, based on focus group interviews with nurse assistants working in residential care facilities, before the intervention (I) and individual interviews after the intervention (IV). The other two studies, evaluating the intervention, were quantitative (II, III), based on the questionnaire that the nurse assistants answered before and after the intervention. Aspects being compared over time were: job satisfaction, strain, stress of conscience, leadership, quality of care, caring climate and person-centred care. As the analysis at baseline showed that the control units and intervention units differed at baseline, comparisons within groups over time were performed. Results The results of the thesis show that nurse assistants at residential care facilities experienced that it was difficult to focus on “being” i.e. on the relationship aspect in their work since the main discourse in the residential care focused on “doing” i.e. tasks oriented aspects. Palliative care was described as something that was applied only during a short and defined phase, namely the very last days of the residents’ life. The results also show that nurse assistants experienced difficulties facing emotional and existential issues with regards to both the residents and their relatives (I). The results of study I were, in turn, used as a basis for the development of the intervention, which mainly focused on existential and emotional aspects of caring and on relations with residents and their relatives within the framework of the palliative care philosophy. The evaluation of the intervention showed that the nurse assistants after the intervention had increased their focus on the residents’ situation and to a greater extent stated that they focused on the residents’ life stories and on aspects that brought meaning to their lives (III). The nurse assistants also stated that they experienced less criticism from their superiors as well as from the residents after the intervention (II). However, the evaluation also showed that the nurse assistants had a more negative view of the leadership (II), were more critical to the medical and the nursing care (III), and their job satisfaction had decreased (II) after the intervention. Interviews after the intervention showed that they, via the intervention, had gained increased insight into their own significance in their encounter with the residents, and also an increased awareness about the residents’ and their relatives’ needs. The intervention also contributed to an increased openness in the workgroup. However, the nurse assistants also expressed frustration over barriers towards implementing changes mainly due to a lack of resources and limited leadership (IV). Discussion A fact that strengthens the results in this thesis is that data triangulation was used, meaning that both interviews and questionnaires were used to evaluate the influence of the intervention on nurse assistants’ work situation. A limitation was that we did not have complete control over the selection of intervention and control units, meaning that they differed at baseline in the outcome measurements. Consequently, we made comparisons within groups, instead of between groups, over time. The results indicate that discussions and reflections in line with the palliative care approach support nurse assistants in their striving to focus on relationship aspects with residents, and to pay increased attention to the residents’ unique situations and needs. The intervention most certainly gave the nurse assistants possibilities to reflect over problematic situations in their work and to mirror how they and their colleagues interpreted and reacted to the situation. The results also indicate that the nurse assistants, due to the intervention, had increased their awareness of barriers in the organization preventing them from providing the care as they wished and that they became more critical to the medical and the nursing care at the unit. This can be understood in the light of the process of learning involving different dimensions, which influence each other: a content dimension leading to increased knowledge, a driving force dimension leading to an increased sensitivity and an interaction dimension leading to different ways of handling and talking to each other in the group. Through the intervention, all dimensions were targeted and influenced aspects of “being” with the residents and their relatives as well as the nurse assistants’ “being” with each other. The nurse assistants, however, had limited possibilities to change their practice, which lead to an increased criticism against the provision of medical and nursing care and the leadership at the facility. The nurse assistants changed their view of palliative care through the intervention, from a care that only included the very last days in the residents’ lives to an approach that could be used from the time the residents moved in to the facility until their death. Applying a palliative care approach in residential care facilities means several advantages for older people, as increased focus is set to their situation and needs. It also means that their relatives are included in the care from the beginning. Before the intervention the nurse assistants described that they lacked competence to talk to residents about existential aspects. Through the interviews that the nurse assistants performed as a part of the intervention, they gained insight into the residents’ thoughts, feelings and wishes and after the intervention they stated that they talked with residents about their lives and listened to their stories to a larger degree. In order to achieve sustainable changes in residential care facilities, the palliative care approach needs to permeate the whole organization. The intervention did not influence the nurse assistants’ prerequisites to provide a more person-centered care or to influence the caring climate to be more person-centered. The nurse assistants experienced that the leaders were less engaged in their development after the intervention, and that they received less support from the leaders to implement changes in line with the intervention. This is supported by results from a study with the leaders who had participated in the intervention. The managers expressed that they perceived the intervention mostly as an opportunity for the nurse assistants’ own development, rather than something that should change the care provision. They also described that they had planned to implement many of the changes that were suggested during the workshops, but 14 months later most of them had not been implemented. Even if we have not explicitly investigated the leaders’ situation, it is important to reflect over the sufficiency of tools and their possibilities to realize development work in a municipal organization. Another aspect that most certainly influenced which development work was to be prioritized was that of specific knowledge about the topic for which the leaders were responsible, i.e. older people and ageing. A recent survey from The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare concerning competence in gerontology and geriatrics among different professions shows that only 1.6 per cent of registered nurses working with aged care have a nursing education that is specialized for the care of older people. The survey also highlights that education in social work is on a general level, and mostly focused on the “exercise of public authority”. A further aspect that influences developmental work is the relatively low staffing at residential care facilities. Thus, even if the intervention had had an increased focus on the leaders and development work, several other factors would still affect the prerequisites for making changes in residential care facilities. Even if the result in this thesis could be seen as positive, it is noteworthy that the intervention also contributed to decreased job satisfaction among the nurse assistants. Through the intervention, the nurse assistants gained increased insight into the residents’ needs but did not get sufficient support from the organization to change the care provision at the facility. This increased their frustration, which in turn, can most certainly explain these negative results. Conclusion Nurse assistants working in residential care facilities for older people need support so as to be able to focus on aspects of “being”, i.e. to provide a care with focus on the old persons’ wellbeing and dignity, not only during the very last days of their lives but from the day they move into the care facility. The result indicates that the main component in the intervention served as a support for nurse assistants as they through discussions and reflections over praxis in their ordinary workgroup, developed an increased awareness about, and focus on, “being” i.e. on relationship aspects. However, it would seem that essential prerequisites, such as support from the leaders and sufficient resources for working in line with a palliative care approach, were not provided. When implementing a palliative care approach in residential care facilities, more focus on support to the leaders is needed in order to maintain sustainable changes.
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