Goal: Although the importance of the palliative care team (PCT) to university hospitals is widely accepted, the issues of palliative care at the national level have not been clarified. We conducted a nationwide survey of the current status of PCTs in all (123) Japanese university hospitals. Materials and methods: In 2003, 2004 and 2005, the authors conducted a self-reporting cross-sectional survey. Questionnaires were mailed to nursing directors and selected PCT members of all Japanese university hospitals. Results: Of 123 hospitals in 2005, 99 (80%) returned the questionnaire; 33% used PCTs, and 11% used certified PCTs. Our findings include: annual number of patients treated by PCTs (83/70±64, mean/median ± SD), daily number of patients treated by PCTs (12/11±14), and days of PCT care per patient (30/30±22). Certified PCTs treated more patients per year (p=0.004) and more patients per day (p<0.001) compared to noncertified PCTs. Over the 3-year period, the number of hospitals utilizing PCTs only slightly increased (2003: 27%, 2004: 29%, 2005: 33%), as did those using certified PCTs (2003: 3%, 2004: 9%, 2005:11%). In 2005, the reasons for noncertification of PCTs included "lack of physicians who specialize in palliative care (82%)" and "lack of nurses who specialize in palliative care (56%)." Conclusions: The entire system of palliative care in Japanese university hospitals is currently insufficient. The lack of physicians and nurses who specialize in palliative care is a significant barrier, and therefore, the initiation of a formal training system for these health care professionals is a high priority issue.
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