Qualified Clinical Psychologists' Experiences of Working with Children with Life-Limiting Conditions: a Qualitative Study
Davenport, Rebecca Kate
Background: Despite the increased presence of clinical psychologists in paediatric services, including palliative care teams, there has been little research into their experience of working with children with life-limiting conditions. Existing studies have tended to focus mainly on the experience of medical professionals working in this area. Such studies have found that working with life-limiting conditions and child death has a significant impact on medical professionals, causing stress, burnout and feelings of professional failure. As clinical psychologists have a role in supporting the emotional needs of children, families and staff teams, it is important to explore their experiences, the impact that such work has on them, and any potential personal and professional implications. Aims: After identifying the above gap in the research, this study aimed to explore clinical psychologists‟ experiences of working with children with life-limiting conditions. Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven qualified clinical psychologists who were working in hospital settings with children with life-limiting conditions. The transcripts of the interviews were then analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results: Three superordinate themes emerged from the analysis: „The meeting of two worlds: When psychology and medicine converge‟, „Nobody is immune: Facing the challenges of working of life-limiting conditions‟ and „Balancing the rough with the smooth: Finding a way to manage‟. Implications & conclusion: Participants experienced challenges in having to adapt to a medical world and in facing emotional impacts however, they also reported positive experiences from their work. The study raised many implications for clinical practice including the need to potentially help psychologists to prepare for the possible changes required when practicing in a hospital setting. This could perhaps be incorporated more into clinical training or be provided as in-house training when starting in the post.