What is needed to prepare speech pathologists to work in adult palliative care?
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Background: Speech pathologists have a pivotal role in palliative care, assisting patients with swallowing and communication disorders, yet very little is known about the preparedness of speech pathologists to work in this field. Aims: To investigate the preparedness of speech pathologists for working in palliative care. The term ‘palliative care’ was viewed as an encompassing umbrella term incorporating the management/reduction of symptoms and improvement in a person's quality of life at any point of the disease progression. Methods & Procedures: Participants were Australian-trained speech pathologists who provided adult palliative care services. An online questionnaire was used to gather both quantitative and qualitative data from practising speech pathologists. Qualitative data were analysed and interpreted using conventional content analysis. Descriptive statistics were analysed via the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) for Windows Version 22. Non-parametric tests (chi-square and Mann–Whitney U-test) were used for further analysis. Outcomes & Results: The majority (70%) of participants indicated that their university training did not prepare them to practice in palliative care. Participants who received palliative care education at the tertiary level were significantly more prepared to work with palliative patients than those who had not; however, only a minority (27%) had received such training. Just over half (57%) reported having completed post-university professional development in palliative care. The speech pathologist's role in palliative care was also highlighted, with speech pathologists outlining their contribution to the assessment of patients’ communication and swallowing abilities. In addition, recommendations for palliative care content to be incorporated into university curriculum were suggested. Conclusions & Implications: Speech pathologists can make important contributions to end-of-life care, but there is much scope for improving the availability and quality of university and post-university palliative care training opportunities so that people receiving palliative care are best supported.
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