Journal article

Development of an existential support training program for healthcare professionals


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Publication Details

Author list: Danielson, Ella;Melin-Johansson, Christina

Publication year: 2013

Start page: 1701

End page: 1709

Number of pages: 9

ISSN: 1478-9515


View additional information: View in Web of Science


Objective: Our aim was to describe the developmental process of a training program for nurses to communicate existential issues with severely ill patients.

Method: The Medical Research Council (MRC) framework for the development and evaluation of complex interventions was used to develop a training program for nurses to communicate about existential issues with their patients. The steps in the framework were employed to describe the development of the training intervention, and the development, feasibility and piloting, evaluation, and implementation phases. The development and feasibility phases are described in the Methods section. The evaluation and implementation phases are described in the Results section.

Results: In the evaluation phase, the effectiveness of the intervention was shown as nurses confidence in communication increased after training. The understanding of the change process was considered to be that the nurses could describe their way of communicating in terms of prerequisites, process, and content. Some efforts have been made to implement the training intervention, but these require further elaboration.

Significance of results: Existential and spiritual issues are very important to severely ill patients, and healthcare professionals need to be attentive to such questions. It is important that professionals be properly prepared when patients need this communication. An evidence-based training intervention could provide such preparation. Healthcare staff were able to identify situations where existential issues were apparent, and they reported that their confidence in communication about existential issues increased after attending a short-term training program that included reflection. In order to design a program that should be permanently implemented, more knowledge is needed of patients perceptions of the quality of the healthcare staffs existential support.


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