Nursing competencies across different levels of palliative care provision: a systematic integrative review with thematic synthesis

Minna Hökkä*, Sandra Martins Pereira, Tarja Pölkki, Helvi Kyngäs, Pablo Hernández-Marrero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Palliative care exists in diverse healthcare settings. Nurses play a crucial role in its provision. Different levels of palliative care provision and education have been recognized in the literature. Therefore, nurses need a set of various competencies to provide high-quality palliative care. Aims: To systematically synthesize the empirical evidence of (1) nursing competencies needed in palliative care and (2) whether these competencies differ across the level of palliative care. Design: Systematic integrative review with thematic synthesis. Prospero: CRD42018114869. Data sources: CINAHL, PubMed, Academic Search Premier, Scopus and Medic databases. Studies on nursing competencies linked to palliative care reported in English, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese or German were considered. Search terms: ‘palliative care or hospice care or end-of-life care’, ‘competency or professional competence or skills’ and ‘nursing’. Articles were independently screened and reviewed by two researchers. Quality appraisal was conducted following Hawker’s criteria. Results: A total of 7454 articles were retrieved, 21 articles were included in the analysis. Six diverse nursing competencies dimensions, namely leadership, communication, collaboration, clinical, ethico-legal and psycho-social and spiritual were identified. The reports rarely defined the level of palliative care and covered a wide array of healthcare settings. Conclusion: Nurses need a wide range of competencies to provide quality palliative care. Few studies focused on which competencies are relevant to a specific level of palliative care. Further research is needed to systematize the nursing competencies and define which nursing competencies are central for different levels of palliative care to enhance palliative care development, education and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851-870
Number of pages20
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Competencies
  • Nursing
  • Palliative care
  • Professional competence
  • Systematic integrative review


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