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communication, COPD, long-term conditions, palliative care, palliative care excellent, patient-centered care, patient-clinician communication



  1. Tavares, Nuno PhD, BSc(Hons), RN
  2. Jarrett, Nikki PhD, BSc(Hons), PGCert, RN
  3. Wilkinson, Tom PhD, MBBS, MA Cantab, FRCP
  4. Hunt, Katherine PhD, MSc, BN(Hons), PGCert, RN


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is associated with progressive symptoms and increased treatment burden, especially at the end of life. However, most patients do not receive palliative care until late in their lives or discuss their end-of-life preferences with clinicians. This study explored clinicians' perspectives on the timing and nature of palliative care discussions.


Qualitative interviews were conducted with 7 physicians and 7 nurses working in primary and secondary care settings. Data were analyzed using a thematic analysis. Participants advocated for early, gradual, and informed palliative and future care discussions, because these discussions were thought to be less traumatic and better accepted by patients. Despite this, patient- and clinician-related barriers severely affected clinicians' ability to start discussions at earlier stages. Participants felt many patients were not ready for these discussions and feared damaging hope if the subject was broached. Therefore, clinicians delayed discussions until patients approached the end of life.


Stand-alone conversations about and near the end of life were described as current practice; however, clinicians believed these discussions reduced patients' hope and were potentially upsetting. Instead, individualized early, regular, and gradual discussions about immediate and long-term care plans were thought to be less negative and be better accepted.