Introduction: Of the 119.2 million visits to the emergency department (ED) in 2006, it was estimated that about 249,000 visits resulted in the patient dying or being pronounced dead on arrival. In two national studies of emergency nurses' perceptions of end-of-life (EOL) care, ED design was identified as a large and frequent obstacle to providing EOL care. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of ED design on EOL care as perceived by emergency nurses.

Methods: A national, geographically dispersed, random sample of 500 members of the Emergency Nurses Association were sent a 25-item questionnaire regarding ED design as it impacts EOL care. Inclusion criteria were nurses who could read English, worked in an emergency department, and had cared for at least one patient at the EOL. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the Likert-type and demographic items. Open-ended questions were analyzed using content analysis.

Results: After two mailings yielding 198 usable responses, nurses did not report ED design to be as large an obstacle to EOL care as previous studies had suggested. Nurses did report the ED design helped EOL care at a greater rate than it obstructed EOL care. Nurses also believed they had little input into unit design or layout changes. The most common request for design change was private places for family members to grieve. Thirteen nurses also responded with an optional drawing of suggested emergency department designs.

Discussion: Overall, nurses reported some dissatisfaction with ED design, but also believed they had little to no input in unit design improvement. Improvements to EOL care might be achieved if ED design suggestions from emergency nurses were considered by committees that oversee remodeling and construction of emergency departments. Further research is needed to determine the impact of ED design on EOL care in the emergency department.



College and Department

Nursing; Nursing



Date Submitted


Document Type





Emergency Department, Design, Nurses' Perception, End-of-Life



Included in

Nursing Commons