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Undergraduate nursing students’ construction of a good and bad death
  1. Oluwatomilayo (Tomi) Adesina,
  2. Anita De Bellis,
  3. Lana Zannettino
  1. Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Oluwatomilayo (Tomi) Adesina, ades0009{at}flinders.edu.au

Abstract

Background Nurses have a key role to play in ensuring that high-quality care is given to patients throughout their disease trajectory, including at the end of life. An increase in the ageing population in Western countries means that nurses are responsible for providing end-of-life care in a range of clinical settings. Nursing students are often exposed to providing end-of-life care while on clinical placement.

Aim The aim of this study was to explore the definition and construction of both a good and bad death from the perspective of a cohort of Australian third-year undergraduate nursing students.

Methods As part of a larger mixed-method survey study of third-year undergraduate nursing students’ perspectives about end-of-life care, qualitative open-ended questions about what constituted a good and a bad death were asked within the survey. These were supplemented by questions on their positive and negative experiences of death and dying. The responses to the open-ended questions were analysed using a thematic analysis.

Findings A total of 225 nursing students completed the survey. Participants were asked about death and dying in the dichotomous terms of negative and positive experiences and what constituted a good or bad death. The analysed themes included: pain free or suffering; acceptance or non-acceptance of death; agreements or conflict; family support or no family support; respecting wishes or ignoring wishes; quality of life in the dying process or futile treatment; prepared for death or unprepared for death; good or bad circumstances; influence of good and bad experiences.

Conclusions Nursing students had clear understandings of what they considered to be a good and a bad death. They viewed the achievement of a good death as a reflection on their clinical practice. As such, achieving a good death experience for people and their families was viewed as paramount to providing quality nursing care. This knowledge will aid in the education of nursing students in regard to providing the best possible circumstances for a good death for clients.

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