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Nurses’ attitudes to terminally ill patients


Eva Román, Sala N.S. Carmen, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Avinguda S. Antoni M. Claret, 167, 08025 Barcelona, Spain. E-mail:


Nurses’ attitudes to terminally ill patients

Background. The care of terminally ill patients is a challenge for nurses that has raised special interest in recent years. Several studies have shown a stereotyped negative attitude in nurses towards terminally ill patients. However, all have used methods with several limitations.

Aim. The aim of the study presented in this paper was to identify the nurses’ attitude to the terminally ill patient in Catalonia, Spain, and the relationship of this attitude to different socio-demographic data (type of centre, shift, years of experience, age and sex) by means of a new quantitative method based on the free word-association test.

Methods. One hundred and seventy-five nurses working in 18 hospitals and hospices in Catalonia, Spain were included in the study. Data were analysed by the Associative Semantic Field Differential method by means of the computer programme CONTEXT and a quantitative evaluation of the degree of attitudes positivity was obtained.

Results. The study revealed a general slight negative trend in attitudes towards the terminally ill patient. A more positive attitude was observed in older caregivers and in women. The positivity in attitude decreased from morning to night shift. No differences were observed between nurses working in hospitals and those working in hospices.

Conclusions. We conclude that nursing attitudes can be analysed by methods such as that used in this study. Attempts can be made to modify this attitude in caregivers by means of training programmes and stimulating awareness of an adequate professional approach.