Center for Advanced Practice


Pediatric Oncology Providers' Perceptions of a Palliative Care Service: The Influence of Emotional Esteem and Emotional Labor.

Publication Title

Journal of pain and symptom management

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PubMed ID



CONTEXT: Pediatric palliative care consults for children with cancer often occur late in the course of disease and close to death, when earlier involvement would reduce suffering. The perceptions that pediatric oncology providers hold about the pediatric palliative care service (PPCS) may shape referral patterns.

OBJECTIVES: To explore how pediatric oncology providers at one institution perceived the hospital's PPCS and the way these perceptions may influence the timing of consultation.

METHODS: We conducted semistructured qualitative interviews with pediatric oncology providers at a large children's hospital. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed by two coders using a modified grounded theory approach.

RESULTS: We interviewed 16 providers (10 physicians, one nurse practitioner, two social workers, two psychologists, and one child life specialist). Three core perceptions emerged: 1) the PPCS offers a diverse range of valuable contributions to the care of children with advancing cancer; 2) providers held favorable opinions about the PPCS owing to positive interactions with individual palliative care specialists deemed extraordinarily emotionally skilled; and 3) there is considerable emotional labor involved in calling a PPCS consult that serves as a barrier to early initiation.

CONCLUSION: The pediatric oncology providers in our study held a highly favorable opinion about their institution's PPCS and agreed that early consultation is ideal. However, they also described that formally consulting PPCS is extremely difficult because of what the PPCS symbolizes to families and the emotional labor that the provider must manage in introducing them. Interventions to encourage the early initiation of palliative care in this population may benefit from a focus on the emotional experiences of providers.


Attitude of Health Personnel, Emotions, Female, Health Personnel, Hospitals, Pediatric, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Male, Medical Oncology, Palliative Care, Pediatrics, Perception, Qualitative Research, Referral and Consultation



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