Evaluating a palliative care education programme for domiciliary care workers

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Background Many domiciliary care workers have reported low confidence and isolation when delivering end of life care in patients’ homes. Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) is an initiative that has demonstrated success in increasing confidence and knowledge of end of life care in UK nursing home and community hospice workers, but it has not been evaluated with domiciliary care workers.

Aim To test the acceptability of Project ECHO to domiciliary care workers as a means of increasing their knowledge of, and confidence in, delivering palliative care, and its effectiveness in reducing their isolation by developing a community of practice.

Method A service evaluation, involving one domiciliary care agency delivering care in the community, was conducted from May 2018 to April 2019. The participants were 25 home care workers who were employed by the agency. Participants were invited to attend an event at which gaps in their knowledge were identified, and a curriculum of learning on the Project ECHO programme was developed. The learning involved 12 educational sessions over 12 months, with each session teaching a different component of palliative care. Questionnaires were completed by the participants before and after the educational sessions to assess their effect. In addition, a focus group was conducted with four of the participants.

Results Comparison of the questionnaires completed before and after participating in the education sessions revealed an increase in self-reported knowledge across all 12 topics of the curriculum and an increase in confidence in seven of the 12 topics. However, attendance across the 12 sessions was variable, with no more than nine being attended by any one participant.

Conclusion Palliative care education for domiciliary care staff using ECHO methodology was well received, relevant and accessible, and may have the potential to improve self-assessed knowledge and confidence. However, finding an ideal time for as many staff to attend as possible may be challenging.