The effect of death education on attitudes of hospital nurses toward care of the dying

D S Hainsworth
Oncology Nursing Forum 1996, 23 (6): 963-7

PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To determine the effect of death education on attitudes and behavioral intentions of experienced nurses who care for hospitalized terminally ill adults and their families and to determine the influence of death education on nurses' self-perceptions regarding supervision or peer review of their behavior toward dying patients and their families.

DESIGN: Experimental.

SETTING: Adult medical-surgical units in an urban teaching hospital.

SAMPLE: Self-selected sample (n = 28) of registered nurses randomly assigned into experimental (n = 14) and control (n = 14) groups.

METHODS: Both groups completed Waltman's questionnaire Attitudes, Subjective Norms, and Behavioral intentions of Nurses Toward Care of Dying Patients and their Families, using a pretest/post-test format. The experimental group also received an educational intervention consisting of three two-hour didactic/experiential classes; the control group received no intervention.

MAIN RESEARCH VARIABLES: Death education and nurses' attitudes, subjective norms, and behavioral intentions toward care of dying patients and their families.

FINDINGS: The researcher detected no significant difference in attitude between the two groups. The educational intervention had a significant positive effect on subjective norms. No significance was detected in overall analysis of behavioral intentions.

CONCLUSIONS: Death education had no effect on the attitudes or behavioral intentions of RNs toward care of dying patients and their families. The educational program did have a significant positive effect on nurses' perceptions of how others might perceive their behavior toward dying patients and their families.

IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE: Death education for nurses, especially in areas of communication with patients and families, potentially may affect terminal care. The significant influence on subjective norms suggests a need to expand death education to include all healthcare personnel.

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