The significance of gratitude for palliative care professionals: a mixed method protocol
Background: In palliative care (PC) patients and relatives (P/R) often show their gratitude to the healthcare professionals (HP) who care for them. HP appreciate these displays of gratitude, although the impact of the same has not been examined in detail. Publications analysed tell personal experiences in which HP say that displays of gratitude create sensations of well-being, pride and increased motivation to carry on caring. No systematic examination in PC was found. These aspects related to gratitude may be important in the field of PC, where there is constant exposure to suffering and the preoccupation which arises from wanting to help HP to go on with their work, but it needs closer study and systemisation. The purpose of this study is to understand the significance and the role of the gratitude received from P/R for palliative care health professionals (PCHP). Methods: A suitable mixed method will be used. The first phase will be quantitative and will consist of a survey, piloted by experts, whose goal is to explore the current situation in Spain as regards displays of gratitude received by HP at PC services. It will be sent by e-mail. The results from this part will be incorporated into the second part which will be qualitative and whose goal is to understand the significance of the experience of receiving displays of gratitude from the perspective of PCHP, using a phenomenological approach. Interviews will be undertaken amongst PCHP. The interview guide will be designed after taking the survey results into account. The project has been granted ethical approval. Discussion: These results are set to provide a key contribution within the context of the growing preoccupation on how to care for HP, how to ensure retention and keep them from resigning, as well as preventing burnout, emotional fatigue and boosting their resilience. In order to do this, it is both interesting and ground breaking, to analyse the repercussion of spontaneous gratitude shown by P/R towards PCHP, to see if this is a useful resource to reduce these problems and to encourage the greater presence of dignity and humanisation, for both those receiving care and for those providing it. This gratitude may be one of these strategies.