Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Dying in the hospital setting: A meta-synthesis identifying the elements of end-of-life care that patients and their families describe as being important

BACKGROUND: Despite most expected deaths occurring in hospital, optimal end-of-life care is not available for all in this setting. AIM: To gain a richer and deeper understanding of elements of end-of-life care that consumers consider most important within the hospital setting. DESIGN: A meta-synthesis. DATA SOURCES: A systematic search of Academic Search Complete, AMED, CINAHL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, PubMed, Google, Google Scholar and CareSearch for qualitative studies published between 1990 and April 2015 reporting statements by consumers regarding important elements of end-of-life hospital care. Study quality was appraised by two independent researchers using an established checklist. A three-stage synthesis approach focusing on consumer quotes, rather than primary author themes, was adopted for this review. RESULTS: Of 1922 articles, 16 met the inclusion criteria providing patient and family data for analysis. Synthesis yielded 7 patient and 10 family themes including 6 common themes: (1) expert care, (2) effective communication and shared decision-making, (3) respectful and compassionate care, (4) adequate environment for care, (5) family involvement and (6) financial affairs. Maintenance of sense of self was the additional patient theme, while the four additional family themes were as follows: (1) maintenance of patient safety, (2) preparation for death, (3) care extending to the family after patient death and (4) enabling patient choice at the end of life. CONCLUSION: Consumer narratives help to provide a clearer direction as to what is important for hospital end-of-life care. Systems are needed to enable optimal end-of-life care, in accordance with consumer priorities, and embedded into routine hospital care.