Clinicians’ accounts of communication with patients in end-of-life care contexts: A systematic review

Brett Scholz, Liza Goncharov, Nathan Emmerich, Vinh N. Lu, Michael Chapman, Shannon J. Clark, Tracey Wilson, Diana Slade, Imogen Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Communication between patients and end-of-life care providers requires sensitivity given the context and complexity involved. This systematic review uses a narrative approach to synthesise clinicians’ understandings of communication in end-of-life care. Methods: A systematic, narrative synthesis approach was adopted given the heterogeneity across the 83 included studies. The review was registered prospectively on PROSPERO (ID: CRD42019125155). Medline was searched for all articles catalogued with the MeSH terms “palliative care,” “terminal care” or “end-of-life care,” and “communication”. Articles were assessed for quality using a modified JQI-QARI tool. Results: The findings highlight the centrality and complexity of communication in end-of-life care. The challenges identified by clinicians in relation to such communication include the development of skills necessary, complexity of interpersonal interactions, and ways in which organisational factors impact upon communication. Clinicians are also aware of the need to develop strategies for interdisciplinary teams to improve communication. Conclusion: Training needs for effective communication in end-of-life contexts are not currently being met. Practice Implications: Clinicians need more training to address the lack of skills to overcome interactional difficulties. Attention is also needed to address issues in the organisational contexts in which such communication occurs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1913-1921
Number of pages9
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


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