(HealthDay News) — About half of cancer center staff members perceive that a dignified death is possible for cancer patients on their wards, according to a study published online September 8 in Cancer.

Karin Jors, from University Medical Center Freiburg in Germany, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study to examine whether the circumstances for dying on cancer center wards allow for a dignified death. Physicians and nurses in 16 hospitals belonging to 10 cancer centers were surveyed regarding end-of-life care. A total of 1,131 surveys were returned.

The researchers found that half of the respondents reported rarely having enough time for care for dying patients and 55% noted that the rooms available for dying patients were unsatisfactory. Few respondents (19%) reported having been well-prepared to care for the dying (physicians, 6%). Compared with staff from other wards, palliative care staff reported much better conditions for the dying (95% of staff indicated that patients die with dignity in palliative care wards). Physicians generally had a more positive perception than nurses, especially with respect to communication and life-prolonging measures. About half of respondents (57%) believed that dignified death was possible on their wards.

“We recommend that cancer centers invest more in staffing, adequate rooms for dying patients, training in end-of-life care, advance-care planning standards, and the early integration of specialist palliative care services,” write the authors.

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