end of life, emergency department, design, emergency nurses, obstacles


Introduction: Although death is common in emergency departments, there is limited research regarding ED design as an obstacle to end-of-life care. This study identifies emergency nurses’ recommendations regarding ways designs have negative or positive impact on care for dying patients and their families.

Methods: A 25-item questionnaire was sent to a national random sample of 500 emergency nurses. Inclusion criteria were nurses who could read English, worked in emergency departments, and had cared for at least 1 patient at the end of life (EOL). Responses were individually reviewed and coded.

Results: Major obstacles included (1) issues related to limited space, (2) poor department layout and design, and (3) lack of privacy. Despite emergency departments being a challenging place to provide EOL care, positive ED design characteristics had impact on EOL care.

Discussion: Emergency nurses understand the need for family presence during resuscitation, for secure body stowage areas, and for more resuscitation rooms so that families have time to grieve before being removed because of the immediate needs of a second trauma patient. Nurses can evaluate existing facilities to identify areas in which potential change and remodeling could improve care, increase patient privacy, or further utilize space.

Understanding ED design’s impact on EOL care is crucial. Modifications to ED layout and design may be challenging; however, improvements to space, layout, and privacy need to be considered when planning new emergency departments or remodeling existing departments. Further research is required to determine the impact of ED design on EOL care.

Original Publication Citation

Beckstrand, R. L., Corbett, E. M.**, Macintosh, J. L., Luthy, K. E. B., & Rasmussen, R. J. (2019). Emergency nurses’ department design recommendations for improved end-of-life care. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 45(3), 286-294.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Emergency Nursing





University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor