Parental Perspectives of Communication at the End of Life at a Pediatric Oncology Institution

Jennifer M. Snaman, Carlos Torres, Brian Duffy, Deena R. Levine, Deborah V. Gibson, Justin N. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: The interaction of health care providers and hospital staff with patients and families at the end of life affects the parental grief experience. Both verbal and nonverbal communication are key components of this interaction. Objective: The study objective was to explore the communication between hospital staff members and patients and families at the time of patients' health decline near the end of life. Methods: Twelve bereaved parents participated in a focus group. Semantic content analysis was used to analyze the transcript. Results: Parents' responses to the prompt about typical ways the medical team communicated yielded 109 codes, which were grouped into 12 themes. The most common themes were "patient inclusion" and "explanation of medical plan," both used in 17% of responses. Responses to the prompt about positive and negative aspects of communication generated 208 codes, yielding 15 different themes. The most common theme about positive communication was the "strong relationship between family and staff." The theme "variations in care with a negative impact" was used most frequently in describing negative communication. Conclusion: This study helps to identify techniques that should be used by clinicians as they work with children with cancer and their families, particularly including patients in treatment decisions, ongoing relationship building, communicating with caring and empathy, using an interdisciplinary team for additional support, and pairing bad news with a plan of action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)326-332
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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