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Nurses’ perceptions of quality end-of-life care on an acute medical ward


  • Genevieve Thompson MN RN,

  • Susan McClement PhD RN,

  • Paul Daeninck MSc MD FRCPC

Genevieve Thompson,
Department of Community Health Sciences,
University of Manitoba,
750 Bannatyne Ave.,
Manitoba R3E OW3,


Aim.  This paper reports the findings of a study that generated a conceptual model of the nursing behaviours and social processes inherent in the provision of quality end-of-life care from the perspective of nurses working in an acute care setting.

Background.  The majority of research examining the issue of quality end-of-life care has focused on the perspectives of patients, family members and physicians. The perspective of nurses has generally received minimal research attention, with the exception of those working within palliative or critical care. The vast majority of hospitalized patients, however, continue to be cared for and die on medical units. To date, little research has been conducted examining definitions and determinants of quality end-of-life care from the perspective of nurses working in acute adult medical settings.

Method.  Grounded theory method was used in this study of 10 nurses working on acute medical units at two tertiary university-affiliated hospitals in central Canada. Data were collected during 2002 by interview and participant observation.

Findings.  The basic social problem uncovered in the data was that of nurses striving to provide high quality end-of-life care on an acute medical unit while being pulled in all directions. The unifying theme of ‘Creating a haven for safe passage’ integrated the major sub-processes into the key analytic model in this study. ‘Creating a haven for safe passage’ represents a continuum of behaviours and strategies, and includes the sub-processes of ‘facilitating and maintain a lane change’; ‘getting what's needed’; ‘being there’; and ‘manipulating the care environment’.

Conclusion.  The ability of nurses to provide quality end-of-life care on an acute medical unit is a complex process involving many factors related to the patient, family, healthcare providers and the context in which the provision of end-of-life care takes place.

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