Elizabeth Couch, Jean Marie Mead, Margaret M Walsh

International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol. 19, Iss. 1, 25 Jan 2013, pp 9 - 15

Systematic oral care reduces oral complications among children in paediatric palliative care (PPC), yet little is known about the oral health perceptions of PPC nursing staff. This qualitative cross-sectional study used semi-structured interviews based on phenomenography to explore PPC nursing staff's perceptions of oral health and the relationship of oral care to comfort and quality of life. A purposive sample of nine nursing staff employed at a California PPC facility participated. Five themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews: signs of oral health, reasons for oral care, adaptation of oral care on a case-by-case basis, barriers to providing oral care, and facilitators of improving oral care. The perceived importance of oral health was the underlining similarity between the themes. A need for further research in the area of oral PPC is indicated. Collaboration with dental professionals may be needed to create oral PPC guidelines that fit the complex needs of children with life-limiting illnesses.

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