Speech-language pathology in paediatric palliative care: A scoping review of role and practice

Ms Lillian Krikheli1,2, A/Prof Bernice Mathisen3, Dr.  Lindsay Carey1, Dr. Bruce Rumbold1

1Palliative Care Unit, School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, 2Speech Pathology Services, Cabrini Health, Melbourne, Australia, 3Discipline Lead in Speech Pathology, Department of Community and Allied Health, La Trobe Rural Health School, Bendigo, Australia

Aim: To investigate the role and practice of SLPs in the management of children during end-of-life care.

Method: An up-to-date scoping review of literature and resources is presented. Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) scoping review method was utilised for searching multiple databases. The first search aimed to locate literature in which SLP intervention in paediatric palliative care is specifically addressed (n = 658 sources identified). A second database search used internationally recognised SLP scope of practice areas as a basis to search for literature and resources (n = 93,442 sources identified). Results were included in this review if the interventions described fitted within the SLP’s scope of practice.

Results: There is acknowledgement in the literature that SLPs have a role in paediatric palliative care, however there is very little information specifically identifying SLP involvement in the diagnosis and management of swallowing, cognition/communication, oral hygiene and respiratory issues in a paediatric palliative population. No clinical practice guidelines were found in relation to SLP involvement in this population.

Significance of the findings to allied health: Given that SLPs have sound knowledge of developmental milestones and communication/feeding interventions, it is argued that SLPs can be an important contributor within a multidisciplinary paediatric palliative care setting. This review provides background knowledge to explicitly define the SLP role and scope of practice within paediatric palliative care for the development of clinical practice guidelines. Further research and resourcing is needed however to achieve this goal.