Date of Award

Fall 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Haglund, Kristin

Second Advisor

Woda, Aimee

Third Advisor

Breakwell, Susan


Background/Purpose: Family care at end-of-life is delivered by nurses and includes communication and explanations, providing emotional support for the family, creating an environment in which death occurs with dignity, providing privacy, facilitating visitation, and honoring and meeting cultural and personal family values (Beckstrand et al., 2011; Bloomer et al., 2013; Cronin et al., 2015; Heidari & Norouzadeh, 2014). There appears to be a gap in the empirical evidence and literature on this topic. Regarding the knowledge and comfort of student nurses, and subsequently nurses, in family care at the end-of-life, there is disparity. To determine what must be taught to nursing students, there must first be a needs assessment. The purpose of this study is to investigate what nursing students perceive their needs, challenges, and facilitators to providing competent family care at end-of-life. Theoretical framework: Mezirow’s transformative learning theory was the framework for this study (Kitchenham, 2008). The theory is used as a method for behavior change. Results provided information needed to explore new content and options for nursing education regarding care of families of dying patients. Method: This study used a qualitative descriptive design. Focus groups were used to interview 19 junior and senior nursing students who were currently in acute care clinical courses. The data was analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: Four themes emerged from the data: feeling unprepared, importance of communication, experience increases comfort and confidence, and families’ emotional responses can be challenging. Conclusions: This study supports previous findings that students do not feel prepared to provide family care at end-of-life. All nurses need to know the basics of providing family care at end-of-life. This study supported that students prefer experiential learning methods, such as simulation and role playing. This study also demonstrates that nursing faculty should also be knowledgeable and comfortable with family care at end-of-life.

Included in

Nursing Commons