Types of Uncertainty

Clinicians deciding whether to refer a patient or family to specialty palliative care report facing high levels of uncertainty. Most research on medical uncertainty has focused on prognostic uncertainty. We conducted a phenomenological qualitative analysis of “uncertainty” as experienced and described by interdisciplinary pediatric oncology team members regarding the introduction of palliative care. We found that clinicians caring for patients with advanced cancer confront seven broad categories of uncertainty: prognostic, informational, individual, communication, relational, collegial, and inter-institutional. Each of these kinds of uncertainty can contribute to delays in referring patients to palliative care. To manage these forms of uncertainty, providers need to develop strategies and techniques to handle professionally challenging situations, communicate bad news, manage difficult interactions with families and colleagues, and collaborate with other organizations. For more information, please see the infographic below or read the full paper (published online ahead of print):

Hill DL, Walter JK, Szymczak JE, DiDomenico C, Parikh S, Feudtner C. Seven Types of Uncertainty When Clinicians Care for Pediatric Patients With Advanced Cancer. Journal of pain and symptom management. 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2019.08.010.

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