Associations between oncology nurses' attitudes toward death and caring for dying patients

Michal Braun, Dalya Gordon, Beatrice Uziely
Oncology Nursing Forum 2010, 37 (1): E43-9

PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To examine relationships between oncology nurses' attitudes toward death and caring for dying patients.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, descriptive, and correlational.

SETTING: Israeli Oncology Nurses Society annual conference in June 2006.

SAMPLE: A convenience sample of 147 Israeli nurses who were exposed to death in their daily work. Most worked in oncology departments and were of Jewish faith.

METHODS: Completion of the Frommelt Attitude Toward Care of the Dying Scale, Death Attitude Profile-Revised Scale, and a demographic questionnaire.

MAIN RESEARCH VARIABLES: Attitudes toward caring for dying patients, attitudes toward death (fear of death, death avoidance, and types of death acceptance), and demographic variables (e.g., religiosity).

FINDINGS: Nurses demonstrated positive attitudes toward care of dying patients. The attitudes were significantly negatively correlated with death avoidance, fear of death, and approach acceptance of death. A mediating role of death avoidance was found between fear of death and attitudes toward caring for dying patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Nurses' personal attitudes toward death were associated with their attitudes toward the care of dying patients. The mediating model suggests that some nurses may use avoidance to cope with their own personal fears of death. Inconsistency between the current results and previous studies of associations between acceptance of death and attitudes toward care for dying patients imply that culture and religion might play important roles in the development of these attitudes.

IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING: Training and support programs for oncology nurses should take into consideration nurses' personal attitudes toward death as well as their religious and cultural backgrounds.

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