Exploring the challenges and roles of nurses in delivering palliative care for cancer patients and co-morbidities in Ghana

Evans Osei Appiah, Awube Menlah, Jiayun Xu, Awuku Adomaa Susana, Boateng Susana Agyekum, Isabella Garti, Pascal Kob, Joyce Kumah

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Background: Patients suffering from chronic and life-threatening diseases receive inadequate palliative care in low-income countries, eventually leading to poor quality of life for these patients. Little is known about the experience of delivering palliative care in a low-resource country such as Ghana in comparison to higher-income countries. This study, therefore, aimed to assess the roles and challenges of nurses providing palliative care services for patients with cancer and life-limiting conditions at tertiary Hospitals in Ghana.

Methods: Thirty oncology nurses at a tertiary Hospital in Ghana participated. All nurses were providing end-of-life care to patients with cancer. A qualitative exploratory-descriptive design and a semi-structured interview guide developed by the researchers were used. Interviews lasted on average forty minutes to 1 h were audio-recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Content analysis was carried out to generate themes and sub-themes. 

Findings: Participants were between the ages of 25 and 40 years. A higher percentage of females (n = 17, 57%) participated in the study than males (n = 13, 43%). Two main themes were generated which were the delivery of palliative care and the provision of home care services. The current roles of nurses were centered around pain management, home care services, spiritual needs, and psychological care. Challenges that hindered the implementation of palliative care included distress over expected and unexpected patient mortality, difficulty delivering bad news to patients and families, and frustration with health system resource shortages that negatively impacted patient care. 

Conclusion: Palliative care is one of the essential services provided for patients with life-limiting conditions, and nurses play an active role in the provision of this care. Further research is needed to determine the most effective ways to deliver this care, particularly in developing nations like Ghana.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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