emergency nursing, EOL, end-of-life care, death


Introduction: Little is known about emergency nurses' perceptions of either obstacles or supportive behaviors for providing end-of life (EOL) care to dying patients. The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived obstacles and supportive behaviors in providing EOL care to dying patients in emergency departments.

Methods: In this survey research, a 73-item questionnaire regarding EOL care was mailed to a geographically dispersed national random sample of 300 members of the Emergency Nurses Association. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the 54 Likert-type items and demographic items. Two open-ended questions were analyzed using content analysis.

Results: Returns after 3 mailings yielded 169 usable questionnaires from 284 eligible respondents for a return rate of 59.5%. The greatest obstacles were: (1) emergency nurses having too great a work load to care for dying patients; (2) emergency nurses having to deal with angry family members; and (3) the poor design of emergency departments that do not allow for privacy of dying patients or grieving family members. The most supportive behaviors were: (1) good communication between the physician and RN caring for the dying patient; (2) physicians meeting in person with the family after the patient's death; and (3) an emergency department designed so that the family has a place to grieve in private.

Discussion: Having a better understanding of emergency nurses' perceptions of obstacles and supportive behaviors in providing end-of-life care could help decrease the stress of caring for dying patients. Actions could be taken to decrease the highest rated obstacles and increase the ratings of supportive behaviors that may ultimately result in better end-of-life care for dying patients and their families in the emergency setting.

Original Publication Citation

Heaston, S., Beckstrand, R. L., Bond, A. E., & Palmer, S. P. (2006). Emergency nurses’ perceptions of obstacles and supportive behaviors in end-of-life care. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 32(6), 477-485.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Emergency Nursing





University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor