A Study on Providing Palliative Care – How competent do doctors feel?

Doctor filling syringe.

This study aims to establish how competent doctors feel in providing palliative care to adults with life-limiting conditions.

It aims also to understand whether they feel they have the competencies outlined in the national Palliative Care Competence Framework for Ireland, which was launched in 2014.

The Palliative Care Competence Framework outlines the skills and knowledge all health professionals involved in the delivery of palliative care should have, whether or not they are a specialist in palliative care.

“As a society, perhaps the most sensitive measurement of our maturity is the manner in which we care for those who are facing the ultimate challenge – the loss of life.”

Report of the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care, 2001

Why It Matters

Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of people with life-limiting conditions and their families, not only by treating their physical symptoms but also by attending to their psychological, social and spiritual needs.

We only die once, and we must ensure that those who have the important job of caring for people at the end of life have the necessary skills to provide high quality palliative care.

The findings of this study will help us identify the training and education needs of doctors involved in the provision of palliative care, and will inform the development of our education and training programmes.

Study Methods

The researchers have collected doctors’ self-reported levels of competence in providing palliative care to adults with life-limiting conditions and their families.

A questionnaire was circulated to medical doctors at three levels:

  • doctors who completed their internship
  • doctors who completed some training in palliative care, both in consultant and non-consultant posts
  • doctors who completed Higher Specialist Training in Palliative Medicine.

Data collection is complete and the researchers are currently conducting an in-depth analysis and write up.  

“It is essential that health and social care workers possess the right competences to effectively meet the needs of people with life-limiting conditions as they are among the most vulnerable of populations served by our health service.”

Kathleen Lynch

Minister for Primary Care, Social Care (Disabilities & Older People) and Mental Health, 2014

Meet the Researchers

This project is being led by Dr Karen Ryan, National Clinical Lead for Palliative Care. Other members of the research team are:

  • Dr Michael Connolly, Head of Education, All-Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care
  • Dr Sarah McLean, Specialist in Palliative Medicine
  • Dr Suzanne Guerin, School of Psychology, University College Dublin
  • Aileen Barrett, Education & Professional Development Department, RCPI
  • Gillian Walsh, Research Manager, RCPI

Further Reading

Contact Us

If you would like more information about this study, please contact us.

Dr Lucia Prihodova

Manager, Research Department

Tel: +353 1 863 9645

Dr Lucia Prihodova is the Research Manager at the at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Lucia’s research focuses on psychosocial, medical and health-care system determinants of long term health outcomes. Lucia has a PhD from the Faculty of Medicine at University of Groningen, Netherlands and is an author and co-author of 15 journal articles in the area of chronic diseases.  

RCPI Research

RCPI Research

Tel: +353 1 863 9700