Caring for a child with serious illness, especially when cure is uncertain, may be one of the most difficult and yet most rewarding experiences for all members of the healthcare team. This presentation examines how unconscious bias, or our personal “blind spot”, from the perspectives of the hematology/oncology team, family members, and palliative care team interferes with the ability of the to accept and integrate palliative care for children with high-risk and advanced hematologic or oncologic diagnoses.
The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat symptoms and side effects of the disease or treatment and to optimize quality of life for the child and family. Palliative care is an integrative model of family-centered care that utilizes a broad interdisciplinary team to define and achieve goals of care. Evidence supports integration of palliative care for any child with serious illness, including those with high-risk or relapsed hematologic and oncologic disorders. In some care settings palliative care is absent or underutilized. Unconscious bias affects how we work and interact with people and may impact clinical decision making through attitudes that subconsciously affect understanding, actions, and patient care. Unconscious bias may cause us to make decisions in favor of one situation over another, such as the timeliness of a palliative care consult. This session will facilitate discussion to understand how our perceptions on palliative care may contribute to unconscious bias. Strategies to recognize and attend to unconscious bias regarding palliative care will be explored. Results of a survey of pediatric oncology nurses regarding perceptions of palliative care will be discussed. By recognizing and attending to unconscious bias, nurses become more self-aware and thus better equipped to advocate for integration of palliative care for children and families from the time of diagnosis of a serious hematologic or oncologic illness.
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