Exploring public awareness and perceptions of palliative care: a qualitative study

Sonja McIlfatrick*, Helen Noble, Noleen K. McCorry, Audrey Roulston, Felicity Hasson, Dorry McLaughlin, Gail Johnston, Lesley Rutherford, Cathy Payne, George Kernohan, Sheila Kelly, Avril Craig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Research suggests that the public appear to be confused about the meaning of palliative care. Given the ageing population and associated increase in the number of patients requiring palliative care, it is vital to explore the public's understanding of this concept. Health-promoting palliative care seeks to translate hospice and palliative care ideals into broader public health practice.

Aim: To explore public perceptions of palliative care and identify strategies to raise awareness.

Design: An exploratory qualitative approach. Participants: Semi-structured telephone interviews were undertaken (N = 50) with members of the public who volunteered to participate in the study. The interviews focused on knowledge and perceptions of palliative care, expectations of palliative care services and the identification of strategies to raise public awareness of palliative care. The interviews were audio recorded and content analysed.

Results: Most participants had a general knowledge of palliative care, largely influenced by their own personal experience. They identified that palliative care was about caring for people who were dying and maintaining comfort in the last days of life. Participants expectations of services included the following: holistic support, symptom management, good communication and practical support to enable choice and carer support. Key aspects identified for promoting palliative care were the development of understanding and use of the term itself and targeted educational strategies.

Conclusion: Experience of palliative care generates understanding in the general public who also have ideas for increasing knowledge and awareness. The findings can inform policymakers about strategies to raise public awareness of palliative care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-280
Number of pages8
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number3
Early online date11 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Impact Factor:2.855 | Ranking: Medicine, General & Internal 27 out of 154


  • health-promoting palliative care
  • Palliative care
  • public awareness
  • public health
  • telephone interviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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