The use of personal narratives in hospital-based palliative care interventions: An integrative literature review

Palliative Medicine 2019, Vol. 33(10) (Editor's Choice)

Each month, one article from Palliative Medicine, the EAPC's official research journal, is selected as 'Editor's choice' and the author invited to contribute a short post to the EAPC blog explaining the background to the full article in the journal. This month's 'Editor's choice' is described below with access to the free PDF version.  (You can also read the blog post version here)


People living with life-threatening illness experience unmet existential needs despite the growing research and clinical field of palliative care. Narrative interventions show promise in managing these problems, but more knowledge is needed on the characteristics of narrative interventions and the feasibility of using personal narratives in a hospital.


To review the literature on personal narratives in hospital-based palliative care interventions and to strengthen palliative care practices.


We conducted a systematic integrative review with qualitative analysis and narrative synthesis in accordance with PRISMA where applicable (PROSPERO#:CRD42018089202).


We conducted a systematic search in PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Cinahl, SocINDEX and PsychInfo for primary research articles published until June 2018. We assessed full-text articles against the eligibility criteria followed by a discussion of quality using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme.


Of 480 articles, we found 24 eligible for this review: 8 qualitative, 14 quantitative and 2 mixed methods. The articles reported on dignity therapy, legacy building, outlook, short-term life review and life review. Data analysis resulted in five themes: core principles, theoretical framework, content of narrative, outcome and, finally, acceptability and feasibility.


Various types of systematic palliative care interventions use personal narratives. Common to these is a shared psychotherapeutic theoretical understanding and aim. Clinical application in a hospital setting is both feasible and acceptable but requires flexibility regarding the practices of the setting and the needs of the patient.


Hospital care; narrative; palliative care; psychological well-being; quality of life; review; storytelling


View the full article here

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