Does an Interactive, Teleconference-Delivered, Palliative Care Lecture Series Improve Nursing Home Staff Confidence?

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Background: Project ECHO™ (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a form of online interactive teaching, which has gained international traction. This project evaluates the effectiveness of an ECHO-delivered palliative care education program for the South Dublin region of Ireland. Our aim was to measure project success by quantifying gains in staff confidence.

Methods: The educational program consisted of 10 interactive sessions over a five-month period on palliative care topics ranging from pain management to advance care planning. Twenty nursing homes took part in the education program. Of these, a subgroup of six nursing homes were randomly selected for assessment. Likert scale-based questionnaires assessed staff confidence before and after each lecture and assessment was repeated at least six weeks postlecture. Five of the 10 sessions were assessed in this way. Other characteristics such as staff role and years of experience were also collected.

Results: Twenty nursing homes and 353 staff participated in the education sessions. Of the 6 nursing homes chosen for assessment, an average of 42 questionnaires were returned per session (n = 211), representing 83% of attendees at these 6 selected nursing homes. Seventy-seven percent of questionnaires were successfully followed up for six weeks. Average confidence increased by 27% pre- to postlecture (6.4 [SD = 1.4] to 8.1 [SD = 2.1], p < 0.005). Confidence gains persisted at six weeks; 8.1 of 10 (SD = 1.4), with no significant drop-off (−0.01/10, p = 0.95). All staff groups (nursing vs. non-nursing) exhibited equal confidence gains (nursing gain of 27%, non-nursing gain 22%, p = 0.16), and all confidence gains persisted at six weeks.

Conclusion: This interactive, novel, training program significantly improved nursing home staff confidence in managing palliative care situations, and this confidence was sustained at least six weeks after the sessions.