BACKGROUND: End-of-life (EOL) conversations in hospital should serve to give patients the opportunity to consider future treatment options and help them clarify their values and wishes before it becomes relevant to make decisions about treatment. However, it is known that EOL conversations are not performed systematically in hospital. This may mean that patients and their relatives do not address EOL issues. There is a lack of knowledge about who is responsible for conducting these conversations, and when and under what circumstances they are conducted. The aim of this study was to explore the existing practices regarding EOL conversations in an acute care hospital setting.
METHODS: The design was Interpretive Description and the methods for the data collection included: 1. Participatory observational studies in a pulmonary medical and surgical ward (a total of 66?h); 2. Four focus group interviews with healthcare professionals (n?=?14) from the wards. The analysis followed Spradley's ethnosemantic analysis.
RESULTS: The results revealed three cultural categories related to: 1. The physical and organizational setting; 2. The timing of EOL conversations and competencies and roles in addressing EOL issues and 3. Topics addressed in EOL conversations. The EOL conversations were part of daily clinical practice, but there was a lack of competencies, roles were unclear and the physical and organizational environment was not conducive to the conversations. The topics of the EOL conversations revolved around a "here-and-now" status of the patient's disease progression and decisions about the level of treatment. To a lesser extent, the conversations included the patient's and relatives' thoughts and wishes concerning EOL, which allowed long-term care planning.
CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that there are several barriers to talking about EOL in an acute care hospital setting, and future strategies must address an overall approach. In order to provide patients and their relatives with better opportunities to express their EOL wishes, there is a need for clearer roles and guidelines in an interdisciplinary approach to EOL conversations, alongside improved staff competencies and changes to the organizational and physical environment.