Issues in prognostication for hospital specialist palliative care doctors and nurses: A qualitative inquiry

David Pontin, Nikki Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patients with advanced life-limiting diseases have high information needs concerning prognosis yet discussions between patients and healthcare professionals are either avoided or inaccurate due to over-optimism. Available prognostic models are problematic. Literature indicates that hospital specialist palliative care professionals are frequently asked to prognosticate, although their experience of prognostication is unknown. Identifying this experience will support the development of prognosis training for hospital specialist palliative care professionals.

To explore hospital specialist palliative care professionals' experience of prognostication.Research questions: 'How do specialist palliative care team members prognosticate?'; 'How do they view prognostication?'

Qualitative research - focus group interviews.

Three UK hospital specialist palliative care teams. Participants included medical doctors and palliative care nurses.Inclusion/exclusion criteria: member of hospital specialist palliative care team with knowledge and experience of prognostication. Numbers of participants: four hospital specialist palliative medicine consultants, three senior doctors in training, nine clinical nurse specialists.

Two major themes: Difficulties of prognostication; Benefits of prognostication. Eleven sub-themes: Difficulties (Non-malignant disease; Communicating uncertainty; Seeking definitive prognosis; Participants' feelings; Confidence in prognostication; Estimating prognosis; Dealing with reaction of prognosis; Prognostic error); Benefits (Patient informed decision-making prioritizing needs and care; Family-prioritizing commitments; Services accessing funding and services planning patient care).

Findings highlight lack of evidence to support practice, and identify the complexity and emotional labour involved in prognostication by hospital specialist palliative care team members, and are used to discuss recommendations for further research and practice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165 - 171
Number of pages6
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • palliative care
  • prognosis
  • hospital medical staff/ hospital nursing staff


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