emergency department, design, nurses’ perception, end of life


Introduction: Of the 119.2 million visits to the emergency department in 2006, it was estimated that about 249,000 visits resulted in the patient dying or being pronounced dead on arrival. In 2 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 and to determine how much input emergency nurses have on the design of their emergency department.

Methods: A 25-item questionnaire regarding ED design as it affects EOL care was sent to a national, geographically dispersed, random sample of 500 members of ENA. 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: Two mailings yielded 198 usable responses. Nurses did not report that ED design was as large an obstacle to EOL care as previous studies had suggested. Nurses reported that 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 ED designs.

Discussion: Overall, nurses reported some dissatisfaction with ED design and 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.

Original Publication Citation

Beckstrand, R. L., Rasmussen, R.**, Luthy, K. E., & Heaston, S. (2012). Emergency nurses’ perception of department design as an obstacle to providing end-of-life care. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 38(5), e27-e32.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Emergency Nursing





University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor