Emergency department staff perceptions of their roles in providing end of life care

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Background: End of life care in the emergency department is environmentally and culturally challenging. The aim of this study was to determine Australian emergency department doctors and nurses’ perceptions of their roles in providing end of life care in this environment.

Methods: Perceptions of end-of-life care roles were identified through semi-structured interviews with doctors and nurses using Dieklemann’s seven interpretative stages of analysis guided by phenomenological interpretive underpinnings (hermeneutics). Nine nurses and seven doctors were recruited using purposive sampling. Organisations for emergency doctors (Australasian College for Emergency Medicine: ACEM) and emergency nurses (College of Emergency Nursing Australasia: CENA) were approached to advertise the study and recruit participants across Australia via email.

Results: Results were categorised into four themes namely: role perception; the intensive nature of the role; emotional burden; and role integration. The participants stated that end of life care was provided according to their professional roles and responsibilities. Doctors and nurses had distinct tasks, some of which overlapped. The accounts of the participants in relation to their understanding of each other’s roles highlighted differences in how nurses perceived the role of doctors, and vice versa. The participants spoke about aspects that had an impact on their role of practicing end of life care in the emergency department setting.

Conclusions: In this study, all participants expressed concern for dying patients in the emergency department. The delivery of quality end of life care was believed to be paramount and required staff to work together to achieve the best outcome for the dying patient and their families. Regardless of the similarities and differences that were perceived within their roles, the nurses and doctors believed that their main objective was to ensure that comfort care was provided to dying patients.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalAustralasian Emergency Care
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Sept 2022


  • Emergency
  • End of life care
  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Roles


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