Psycho-Existential Symptom Assessment Scale (PeSAS) Screening in Palliative Care

David W. Kissane, Jane Appleton, Jonathon Lennon, Natasha Michael, Richard Chye, Tania King, Leeroy William, Peter Poon, Suharsha Kanathigoda, Katarina Needham, Irene Bobevski

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Psycho-existential symptoms are common yet often missed or neglected in palliative care. Screening can be an effective way to recognize and respond to this need. Objectives: We aimed to implement routine use of the Psycho-existential Symptom Assessment Scale (PeSAS) as a screening tool in Australian palliative care services and discern the symptom prevalence identified. Methods: In a multi-site rolling design, we established implementation site committees and embarked on experiential workshops to train clinicians in the tool's efficient use. Patient symptom prevalence data were collected to compare uptake across sites. Descriptive statistics were applied. Results: Over one year, we trained 216 clinicians across six palliative care services in the use of the PeSAS as a screening tool and collected data from 1405 patients. Clinicians reported significant growth in their sense of efficacy in assessing psycho-existential wellness. Services using electronic records implemented most easily. Psycho-existential symptoms with clinically significant prevalence (scores ≥ 4/10) included anxiety 41.1%, discouragement 37.6%, hopelessness 35.8%, pointlessness 26.9%, depression 30.3%, and the wish to die 17%. The precision of measurement within 3% was found for severe ratings (score ≥ 8/10) including anxiety 10.6%, depression 10.2%, the wish to die 7.6%, and confusion 3.6%. Conclusion: Clinicians can be trained to screen with the Psycho-existential Symptom Assessment Scale, which serves as a valuable measure to better recognize symptoms of psycho-existential distress among palliative care patients. Implementation barriers included the prior ethos of the service, confidence in talking about these themes, electronic data entry, and perceived time pressures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-437
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Existential
  • palliative care
  • psychological symptoms
  • screening
  • symptom assessment

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