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"They Can't Even Wipe Away Tears Due to the PPE": Results of a COVID-19 Hospice and Palliative Care Workforce Survey (SCI901)

      Objectives

      • 1.
        Describe the impact of COVID-19 on services provided by the hospice and palliative care workforce.
      • 2.
        Discuss the psychological impact of COVID-19 on the hospice and palliative care workforce.

      Background

      The coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has forced people to consider death, dying, and complex decision making in a new light. Although palliative care is well-positioned to respond to a pandemic with its focus on supporting complex decision making, relieving suffering, and managing clinical uncertainty, the impact of COVID-19 on the hospice and palliative care workforce is unknown.

      Research Objectives

      To explore the impact of COVID-19 on the palliative care workforce.

      Methods

      A 35-item online survey was disseminated via the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association newsletter, posted in the Sigma Theta Tau Hospice and Palliative Care Community Group discussion board, and advertised through social media from May 7-May 28, 2020. Summary statistics were computed and thematic analysis was applied to open-ended responses.

      Results

      Thirty-six surveys representing all U.S. geographic regions were completed. The majority (70%) reported an increase in use of specific services as a result of the pandemic including: palliative care referrals, advance care planning, goals of care conversations, psychosocial support consults, spiritual counseling, withdrawal from ventilators, and increased demand for providers to support families through technology. In response to the pandemic, respondents reported that the agency provided the following services to employees: wellness activities (56%), individual counseling (53%), spiritual support (44%), and support groups (42%). In qualitative comments, respondents described the devastating impact of the pandemic and resulting social distancing measures on the emotional well-being of patients and families, as well as staff. They used a range of terms to characterize the experiences of patients and families including traumatic grief, isolation, depression, anger, and sadness.

      Conclusion

      Findings suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a significant strain on the palliative care workforce as it provides increased services at an unprecedented rate.

      Implications for Research, Policy, or Practice

      Administrators need to take steps to proactively address the long-term psychologic impact of COVID-19 on frontline workers.