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Multicultural Long-Term Care Nurses' Perceptions of Factors Influencing Patient Dignity at the End of Life


Address correspondence to Vyjeyanthi S. Periyakoil, Director, Palliative Care Education and Training, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1265 Welch Road, MSOB X216, MC: 5475, Stanford, CA 94305. E-mail:


The goal of this mixed-methods study was to characterize the perceptions of multicultural long-term care nurses about patient dignity at the end-of-life (EOL). The study was conducted in a large, urban, long-term care (LTC) facility. Participants were 45 long-term care nurses and 26 terminally ill nursing home residents. Nurses completed an open-ended interview about their perceptions of the concept of dying with dignity, and the data were analyzed using grounded theory methods. Main themes identified as promoting resident dignity at the EOL included treating them with respect, helping them prepare for the EOL, promoting shared decision-making, and providing high-quality care. The nurses' cultural and religious backgrounds influenced their perceptions of what constitutes dignity-conserving care. Foreign-born nurses stressed the need for EOL rituals, but this was strikingly absent in the statements of U.S.-born nurses. Foreign-born Catholic nurses stated that the dying experience should not be altered using analgesics to relieve suffering or by attempts to hasten death by forgoing curative therapy or by other means. Nurses and terminally ill individuals completed the Dignity Card-sort Tool (DCT). A comparison of the DCT responses of the LTC nurses cohort with those of the terminally ill participants revealed that the nurses felt patient dignity was eroded when patient wishes were not followed and when they were treated without respect. In contrast, dying LTC residents felt that poor medical care and loss of ability to choose care options were the most important factors leading to erosion of dignity.