Perceptions of nurses towards oral health in palliative care: A qualitative study

Elsevier BV
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Collegian, 2020
Issue Date:
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© 2020 Australian College of Nursing Ltd Background: Oral health problems among people receiving palliative care are common and can significantly affect quality of life. Nurses are at the frontline of palliative care in Australia. However, how optimal oral health care is addressed in clinical practice by palliative nurses is not known. Aim: To explore the perceptions of nurses working in Australian palliative care settings to determine the acceptability, challenges and recommendations that need to be considered to develop and implement an oral health care model in palliative care settings. Methods: Two focus groups were conducted with community (n = 8) and inpatient nurses (n = 10) working in urban palliative care settings. Findings: Four main themes were developed through consensus: 1) Oral health is important in the palliative care setting; 2) Additional training could enhance what nurses already do; 3) Barriers to receiving oral care: a structural issue; 4) Exploring alternative pathways to dental services. Discussion: Nurses recognised the importance of oral health in palliative care; however, the paucity of set protocols based on existing guidelines meant that oral care was often unstructured. Systemic factors reduced the number of available options for people receiving palliative care to access professional dental treatment. Although alternative solutions, including teledentistry services, were explored, there were some constraints. Conclusion: A palliative care oral health model of care would need to integrate existing formal guidelines into a comprehensive framework specific for palliative care nurses and develop palliative care oral health training for them taking into consideration existing barriers for people to receive professional dental treatment.
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