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Research Article

Knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and experience of palliative care amongst South African physiotherapists

Brenda M. Morrow, Charlotte Barnard, Zimkhitha Luhlaza, Kelisha Naidoo, Sarah Pitt

South African Journal of Physiotherapy; Vol 73, No 1 (2017), 8 pages. doi: 10.4102/sajp.v73i1.384

Submitted: 13 January 2017
Published:  31 July 2017


Background: Palliative care encompasses holistic management of patients and families facing life-threatening and life-limiting conditions. There is currently little known about South African physiotherapists’ palliative care knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, experience and training needs.
Objectives: To describe the amount and adequacy of palliative care training received by South African physiotherapists, and their interest, knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and experiences of palliative care.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional descriptive survey study of a convenience sample of physiotherapists, using an adapted Physical Therapy in Palliative Care-Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs and Experiences Scale (PTiPC-KABE Scale). Likert scale scores were converted to continuous data for analysis, presented as median (IQR). Seven universities were contacted to determine undergraduate palliative care curriculum content.
Results: A total of 303 participants (8.4% response rate) completed the questionnaire, and 289 responses were included (5.35% margin of error with 95% CI). Participants had 16 (6–27) years of experience, with 85.5% in private practice. About 66.7% and 79% of participants reported not receiving any training at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, respectively, with more than 80% expressing that training was inadequate at both levels. Universities (n = 4/7; 57.1%) reported a maximum 3 hours undergraduate palliative care training. Seventy-nine percent of respondents had clinical experience in providing palliative care; however ‘knowledge’ was the lowest scoring domain (56.3% (43.8%–62.5%). The ‘beliefs’ domain scored highest at 82.6% (69.6%–91.3%).
Conclusion: Many South African physiotherapists manage patients requiring palliative care, despite inadequate training and limited knowledge in this field. More under- and postgraduate learning opportunities should be made available for physiotherapists in the area of palliative care.

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Author affiliations

Brenda M. Morrow, Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Charlotte Barnard, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Zimkhitha Luhlaza, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Kelisha Naidoo, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Sarah Pitt, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa


Palliative care; physiotherapy; end of life; education; quantitative


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