Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 29-34

End-of-Life communication in the emergency department: The emergency physicians' perspectives

1 Department of Emergency Medicine, Singapore General Hospital, Singapore
2 Accident & Emergency Department, Changi General Hospital, Singapore
3 Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore
4 Department of Emergency Medicine, Sengkang General Hospital, Singapore

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Yuan Helen Zhang
Department of Emergency, Singapore General Hospital, 1 Hospital Crescent, Outram Road
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jets.jets_80_21

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Introduction: End-of-life (EOL) conditions are commonly encountered by emergency physicians (EP). We aim to explore EPs' experience and perspectives toward EOL discussions in acute settings. Methods: A qualitative survey was conducted among EPs in three tertiary institutions. Data on demographics, EOL knowledge, conflict management strategies, comfort level, and perceived barriers to EOL discussions were collected. Data analysis was performed using SPSS and SAS. Results: Of 63 respondents, 40 (63.5%) were male. Respondents comprised 22 senior residents/registrars, 9 associate consultants, 22 consultants, and 10 senior consultants. The median duration of emergency department practice was 8 (interquartile range: 6–10) years. A majority (79.3%) reported conducting EOL discussions daily to weekly, with most (90.5%) able to obtain general agreement with families and patients regarding goals of care. Top barriers were communications with family/clinicians, lack of understanding of palliative care, and lack of rapport with patients. 38 (60.3%) deferred discussions to other colleagues (e.g., intensivists), 10 (15.9%) involved more family members, and 13 (20.6%) employed a combination of approaches. Physician's comfort level in discussing EOL issues also differed with physician seniority and patient type. There was a positive correlation between the mean general comfort level when discussing EOL and the seniority of the EPs up till consultancy. However, the comfort level dropped among senior consultants as compared to consultants. EPs were most comfortable discussing EOL of patients with a known terminal illness and least comfortable in cases of sudden death. Conclusions: Formal training and standardized framework would be useful to enhance the competency of EPs in conducting EOL discussions.

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