A collaborative approach to facilitate professionals to support the breathless patient

Breathlessness is a major problem for people in their last weeks of life. Breathlessness is considered to be multidimensional with physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual factors all playing a part | BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care

B0010196 Visualising the human breath ("Breathe"), Artwork
Image source: Jayne Wilton – Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Image shows artwork – visualising the human breath (“Breathe”)

Objectives: It has been recognised that specific training to health professionals is beneficial in order to improve the care for patients with breathlessness. Breathlessness courses have tended to focus on senior nurses. A new flexible and collaborative training course was designed to include a wider range of nurses and other health professionals in hospital, hospice, primary care and community settings. The aim of the ‘Practical Skills to Support the Breathless Patient’ programme was to make patients and carers feel better supported in their breathlessness, for health professionals to develop confidence and skills in using proven interventions, and to adopt a flexible educational design that could be adapted to different contexts.

Methods: The course is learner-centred and teaching methods encourage interaction and participation via a mix of lectures and discussions with practical skills-focused, experiential workshops in smaller groups. Case study work was included to integrate learning with participants’ practice environment. Evaluation is built in during the course, so adaptations can be made throughout to respond to changing learner needs.

Results: Participants reported increased confidence in terms of knowledge and applying this within everyday practice. The theory-practice dynamic worked well within each participant‘ specific work context in particular through the case study approach.

Conclusions: The course developed a number of innovative approaches, such as multi-disciplinary learning groups, regular feedback loops, reflexive learning about putting theory into practice and long-term follow-up. Combining these elements increases professionals’ confidence and sustains new clinical practice.

Full reference: Shaw, V. et al. (2017) A collaborative approach to facilitate professionals to support the breathless patient. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care Published Online: 22 July 2017