Go to content

End-of-life cancer care: temporal association between generalist homecare nursing and hospitalizations


Objectives — Most cancer patients want to die at home, but scaleable models to achieve this are not well researched. Our objective was to investigate the temporal association of homecare nursing, especially by generalist nurses, with reduced end-of-life hospitalizations.

Methods — We conducted a retrospective Canadian cohort study of end-of-life cancer decedents during 2004-2009 in Ontario (ON), Nova Scotia (NS), and British Columbia (BC), which have homecare systems that use generalist nurses to provide end-of-life care. Each province linked administrative databases to examine the association during the last six months of life between the homecare nursing rate and the hospitalization rate in the subsequent week, using standardized definitions and controlling for other covariates. We dichotomized nursing into standard and end-of-life care intent.

Results — Our cohort included 83,827 cancer decedents. Approximately 55% of decedents were older than 70 and the most common cancer was lung. Nearly 85% of the cohort had at least one hospital admission. Receiving end-of-life compared to standard homecare nursing significantly reduced a patient's hospitalization rate by 34%, 33%, and 17% in ON, BC, and NS. In the last month of life patients having a standard nursing rate of greater than five hours compared to one hour per week had a significantly lower hospitalization rate (relative reduction of 15%-23%) across the three provinces.

Conclusions — Our study showed a protective effect of nursing with an end-of-life intent on hospitalization across the last six months of life and of standard nursing in the last month. This finding's generalizability is strengthened, since the trends were similar across three different homecare systems.



Seow H, Sutradhar R, McGrail K, Fassbender K, Pataky R, Lawson B, Sussman J, Burge F, Barbera L. J Palliat Med. 2016; 19(3):263-70. Epub 2015 Dec 16.

Contributing ICES Scientists

Research Programs