BMC nephrology 2017 11 2318(1) 334 doi 10.1186/s12882-017-0751-y
Pre-dialysis education (PDE) is provided to thousands of patients every year, helping them decide which renal replacement therapy (RRT) to choose. However, its effectiveness is largely unknown, with relatively little previous research into patients’ views about PDE, and no research into staff views. This study reports findings relevant to PDE from a larger mixed methods study, providing insights into what staff and patients think needs to improve.
Semi-structured interviews in four hospitals with 96 clinical and managerial staff and 93 dialysis patients, exploring experiences of and views about PDE, and analysed using thematic framework analysis.
Most patients found PDE helpful and staff valued its role in supporting patient decision-making. However, patients wanted to see teaching methods and materials improve and biases eliminated. Staff were less aware than patients of how informal staff-patient conversations can influence patients’ treatment decision-making. Many staff felt ill equipped to talk about all treatment options in a balanced and unbiased way. Patient decision-making was found to be complex and patients’ abilities to make treatment decisions were adversely affected in the pre-dialysis period by emotional distress.
Suggested improvements to teaching methods and educational materials are in line with previous studies and current clinical guidelines. All staff, irrespective of their role, need to be trained about all treatment options so that informal conversations with patients are not biased. The study argues for a more individualised approach to PDE which is more like counselling than education and would demand a higher level of skill and training for specialist PDE staff. The study concludes that even if these improvements are made to PDE, not all patients will benefit, because some find decision-making in the pre-dialysis period too complex or are unable to engage with education due to illness or emotional distress. It is therefore recommended that pre-dialysis treatment decisions are temporary, and that PDE is replaced with on-going RRT education which provides opportunities for personalised education and on-going review of patients’ treatment choices. Emotional support to help overcome the distress of the transition to end-stage renal disease will also be essential to ensure all patients can benefit from RRT education.