• brain dead patients;
  • donor families;
  • intensive care nurses;
  • organ donation

•  This study was designed to identify the feelings and experiences of critical care nurses who have been involved in nursing brain dead patients prior to organ donation.

•  The purpose of the study was to generate knowledge which informs the discipline of nursing.

•  A number of themes relating to nurses’ experiences of caring for brain dead organ donor patients were uncovered in this interpretative study.

•  Overall, caring for patients who are diagnosed as brain dead is a challenging experience for nurses and they are intensely involved in a search for meaning in each event.

•  The interpretative analysis in this study has revealed a range of meanings articulated by the nurses involved. However, the primary focus of care – as identified by the participating nurses – was the donor family.