Sedation in Palliative Care: Practice and challenges: An interview with Dr Eva Katharina Schildmann, joint winner of the 2020 EAPC Early Researcher Award


Highlights of every European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) Congress are the EAPC Researcher Awards. Awarded jointly by the EAPC and the EAPC Research Network (RN), these awards recognise and support the work of scientists and clinicians in the field of palliative care who make an outstanding contribution to research and clinical practice. 

Yesterday (8 October 2020), Dr Eva Katharina Schildmann was awarded the 2020 EAPC Early Researcher Award. We talk to her about her work as a palliative care physician and leader of a research group at the Department of Palliative Medicine of LMU Klinikum, Munich, Germany, and the research that has led to her award.

Dr Eva Katharina Schildmann.

Who, or what, inspired you to follow a career in palliative care? 

Eva Katharina SchildmannAn important inspiration was the close personal contact with seriously ill patients during my time at medical school – starting with my first nursing work experience on a surgical ward in Munich. In addition, training in communication skills and medical ethics and law during my year of studies at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry in Londonstimulated my interest in topics closely related to palliative care. Later on, during my medical training, I enjoyed working in haematology/oncology very much, but again realised that it was in caring for incurably ill patients and their families where I really saw myself. I regard it as a great privilege to have the time and resources to provide good care, together with all other members of our multiprofessional team, and to share important moments with patients and their families. 

Can you tell us briefly about the research that has led to your winning this award and some of the main findings, as well as your current projects?

EKS: My research interests and activities to date have focussed on outcome measurement, complexity and costs in palliative care and on sedation in palliative care. Regarding outcome measurement, together with Claudia Bausewein and in co-operation with colleagues from the Cicely Saunders Institute, London, as well as several colleagues in Germany, I conducted a project on validation of the Integrated Palliative Care Outcome Scale (IPOS) in Germany, a patient-reported outcome measure to assess patients´ palliative care needs. As to the second topic – complexity and costs in palliative care – we explored respective experiences and views of experts, analysed the cost-covering of the German Diagnosis-related-Groups system and developed a costing methodology for German inpatient palliative care – as a basis for a larger project to develop a casemix classification for palliative care.

Currently, the main focus of my research is sedation in palliative care. Our results from a systematic review of guidelines, as well as quantitative and qualitative studies, demonstrate the different concepts of ‘palliative sedation’ between guidelines and among German healthcare professionals, and the uncertainty, when the use of sedative drugs constitutes ‘(palliative) sedation’. Accordingly, it often remains unclear when exactly guidance on ‘palliative sedation’ should be followed. In two current research projects, which are funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, we assess practice of sedation at the end of life in nursing homes, in different specialties such as oncology, neurology and geriatrics, and in specialist palliative care settings. In addition to gathering quantitative and qualitative data, we developed a method to operationalize sedation, based on dosage of specific drugs. By this approach we hope to improve comparability of practices, which is currently limited by the different concepts of ‘palliative sedation’. By our empirical work, and in collaboration with researchers from palliative care, ethics and law we aim to inform future guidance on sedation practices in specialist palliative care and beyond.

Which qualities do you think are the most important in a researcher? And what else is important for young researchers in your opinion?

EKS: I think most important is having a ‘mission’ – though this can be simple and small at the start and can develop and ‘mature’ later. Other crucial qualities are openness, curiosity, being a team player, perseverance, patience, determination and sometimes also courage. Of course, it is also necessary to deal with frustration, and to ‘stand up again’. A good team and a supporting mentor are very important – and I feel very privileged to have both. 

How do you see your role (and palliative care researchers in general) linked to that of clinicians?

EKS: A close link and continuous exchange between clinical practice and research is crucial to ensure impact of research results on practice. In fact, I have both roles, working as a researcher as well as a physician in our department. By combining research and clinical experience and letting them inspire each other, I aim to contribute to ongoing improvement of care of patients and their families.

What does winning the EAPC Early Researcher Award mean to you?  

EKSIt is a great honour and an additional motivation to carry on with research as well as clinical work now and in the future. It is also an excellent chance to make the work of my team more visible on an international level. I would like to make use of this chance to develop more research collaborations within the EAPC Research Network. I hope that this award will therefore support me regarding my overall aim: to conduct rigorous research, which is of relevance for seriously ill patients, their families and the healthcare professionals caring for them.

Let’s talk about life outside of palliative care: What’s your favourite novel?

EKS: There are too many novels I love to be able to select the one favourite!

Currently, I am reading ‘Momo’ by Michael Ende with my younger daughter – which I last read when I was about 10 years old myself. I am enthralled by the beauty of its language and the wisdom it holds regarding the mysteries of time. Another novel that really fascinated me more recently was ‘The buried giant’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Eva’s presentation, ‘Sedation in Palliative Care: Practice and challenges’, and the live panel discussion, are available for registered delegates to view online on the congress platform until 31 January 2021. To access the congress platform, click here: and login. (If you have forgotten your password go to enter the email address you registered to the congress with into the search bar in lowercase to generate a further automated email from the site).

Everyone can view the Abstracts from the 11thEAPC World Research Congress 7 to 9 October 2020, Palliative Medicine, volume: 34, issue 1_suppl; page(s): 1-280.


  • Find more information on Eva Katharina Schildmann on Orcid.
  • View more posts relating to the 11th EAPC World Research Congress Online here, including interviews with Dr Lucas Morin, joint winner of the 2020 EAPC Early Researcher Award, and Associate Professor Melissa Bloomer, 2020 EAPC Post-doctoral Award winner.


This entry was posted in 11th EAPC World Research Congress Online, EAPC Researcher Awards, EAPC World Research Congresses, INTERVIEWS & TRIBUTES and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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