Assisting People With Their Living, Not Their Dying: Health Professionals’ Perspectives of Palliative Care and Opioids in ILD

Lauren Russo, Karen Willis, Natasha Smallwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a debilitating and life-limiting condition, requiring multi-disciplinary care. While guidelines recommend early specialist palliative care referral to improve symptoms and quality of life, few patients access such care towards the end-of-life. This study aimed to explore clinicians’ perspectives regarding specialist palliative care and opioids to understand barriers to optimal care and guide clinical practice improvement initiatives. Methods: A cross-sectional, exploratory, qualitative study was undertaken with Australian respiratory clinicians caring for people with ILD (n = 17). In-depth, semi-structured interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded. Thematic analysis was undertaken to extrapolate recurring ideas from the data. Results: Four themes were identified: 1) understanding how to improve patient care and support, 2) the need to dispel stigmatized beliefs and misconceptions, 3) the importance of trusted relationships and good communication and 4) the challenges of navigating the health-care system. Participants discussed the need to implement early specialist palliative care and symptom palliation to alleviate symptoms, provide emotional support and augment quality of life. Participants described challenges accessing palliative care and opioids due to stigmatized beliefs amongst patients and clinicians and difficulties navigating the health-care system. Trusted therapeutic relationships with patients and strong inter-disciplinary partnerships with collaborative education and communication were perceived to improve patients’ access to symptom palliation. Conclusion: Specialist palliative care and opioids were believed to improve patients’ quality of life, however, many barriers can make accessing such care challenging. To address these issues, multi-disciplinary collaboration, high-quality communication and trusted therapeutic relationships are crucial throughout the ILD illness journey.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211–219
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • interstitial lung disease
  • opioids
  • qualitative research
  • specialist palliative care
  • symptomatic care

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