Training may increase nurses' anxiety about death in the short term

07/15/04

Educational programs on death and dying are available to help nurses learn how to care for dying patients and their families. But according to a recent study by Jane M. Kurz, Ph.D., R.N., initially, such programs can actually increase nurses' anxiety about death. Kurz, associate professor of nursing at Temple's College of Health Professions, is presenting this study, which evaluated an "End-of-Life" (EOL) educational nursing program, at the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Research Congress in Dublin, Ireland, July 22-24.

A typical EOL program provides registered nurses with strategies to care for dying patients and their families. The program explores psychological, sociological, cultural and spiritual aspects of death and dying; in addition, it seeks to improve nurses' ability to reflect on their own personal and professional experiences of death and loss. "Understanding the impact of an EOL educational program on nurses' attitudes toward death could explain how they deal with dying patients after the program," Kurz said.

Kurz and her colleague surveyed nurses who participated in an EOL program prior to and immediately after the program, and then 6 months and 12 months later. Results showed that learning about death was associated with a significant increase in death anxiety when measured immediately at the program's end. Six months later, however, the EOL-trained nurses' level of death anxiety declined. By the end of 12 months, their death anxiety returned to pre-program levels.

Prior to the program, EOL participants reported death anxiety levels equal to those of a control group of nurses who attended a non-EOL program. At all other times of measurements, the control group demonstrated levels of death anxiety higher than those of the research group.

Kurz and Dr. Evelyn Hayes, her research collaborator from the University of Delaware, concluded that the EOL program's impact should not be measured immediately after the program completion, but later; and further, that these educational programs should be repeated to help nurses deal with death anxiety over the long term.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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