Palliative care is a fairly recent development in The Netherlands. The first palliative unit in a hospital setting was the Palliative Care Unit (PCU) in the Dr Daniel den Hoed Clinic, a specialized oncology hospital, now part of the Academic Hospital Rotterdam (AZR-Daniel). This PCU was designed to function as an academic laboratory, where palliative care concepts are being developed, put into practice, and evaluated. It's mission was to put the patient first in mind, heart and soul. Right from the start, special attention was paid to the implementation a system of 'care for caregivers' in order to support the staff of the PCU in caring for the terminally ill and to prevent burnout. A process evaluation has been carried out with a special focus on the effects of the implementation of the new unit on the wellbeing of the interdisciplinary team of caregivers during the first year of its existence and on the experiences with a residential training preceding the start of patient care activities and the weekly staff support meetings. In the second half of the first year, the PCU staff experienced increased levels of job-related stress. Most stress was attributed to organizational factors, related to management issues but also to lack of institutional support. Teamwork also contributed to stress within the interdisciplinary team. Direct patient care activities also had some impact on experienced stress levels, through a heavy work-load of complex care, a shortage of staff and an experienced lack of competence. While the staff support activities were designed to give emotional support and deal with death and bereavement, these issues did not arise as major problems. As a consequence, the staff support in the PCU was perhaps less successful than it could have been. However, the high stress levels of this innovative palliative team warrant attention. We discuss how support meetings could be a more effective way of caring for staff. They should be accompanied by adequate resources, a supportive management structure, and an extensive educational program. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

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Patient Education and Counseling
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

van Staa, A., Visser, A., & van der Zouwe, N. (2000). Caring for caregivers: Experiences and evaluation of interventions for a palliative care team. Patient Education and Counseling, 41(1), 93–105. doi:10.1016/S0738-3991(00)00119-1