South African paramedic perspectives on prehospital palliative care

2020-10-08

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BMC Palliative Care

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Abstract Background Palliative care is typically performed in-hospital. However, Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers are uniquely positioned to deliver early palliative care as they are often the first point of medical contact. The aim of this study was to gather the perspectives of advanced life support (ALS) providers within the South African private EMS sector regarding pre-hospital palliative care in terms of its importance, feasibility and barriers to its practice. Methods A qualitative study design employing semi-structured one-on-one interviews was used. Six interviews with experienced, higher education qualified, South African ALS providers were conducted. Content analysis, with an inductive-dominant approach, was performed to identify categories within verbatim transcripts of the interview audio-recordings. Results Four categories arose from analysis of six interviews: 1) need for pre-hospital palliative care, 2) function of pre-hospital healthcare providers concerning palliative care, 3) challenges to pre-hospital palliative care and 4) ideas for implementing pre-hospital palliative care. According to the interviewees of this study, pre-hospital palliative care in South Africa is needed and EMS providers can play a valuable role, however, many challenges such as a lack of education and EMS system and mindset barriers exist. Conclusion Challenges to pre-hospital palliative care may be overcome by development of guidelines, training, and a multi-disciplinary approach to pre-hospital palliative care.
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