Nurses’ perceptions and experiences of caring for patients who die in the emergency department setting

Tracey M. Giles, Karen Hammad, Katrina Breaden, Christine Drummond, Sandra L. Bradley, Adam Gerace, Eimear Muir-Cochrane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: The number of people dying in emergency departments (EDs) is increasing. However, EDs are not well designed or resourced for safe and effective End-Of-Life (EOL) care encounters, and there is little evidence regarding clinicians’ perceptions and experiences of providing such care when the death is sudden and unexpected. Aim: This study explored nurses’ perceptions and experiences of caring for patients who die suddenly and unexpectedly in the ED. Methods: Open-end responses were collected as part of a larger descriptive survey design. The qualitative data were analysed thematically. Results: 211 ED nurse completed the online survey. Within the qualitative data, five themes were identified during analysis: 1) key elements of EOL care, 2) systemic and environmental barriers, 3) educational deficits, 4) role ambiguity, and 5) emotional impact. Participants identified communication, a standardised approach, and better educational preparedness as the most important elements of EOL care when the death was sudden and unexpected. Conclusions: ED nurses want to provide high quality care to dying patients and their families. However, their efforts are hampered by systemic and environmental barriers outside their control. There is a need for a culture shift to overcome the barriers that currently obstruct ED nurses from providing meaningful and effective EOL care in the ED.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100789
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Emergency Nursing
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Death
  • Dying
  • Emergency care
  • Emergency nursing
  • End-of-life care
  • Palliative
  • Qualitative


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