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Abstract

Student nurses and novice nurses report that they received little in their nursing education to adequately prepare them for the death of a patient. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing's (AACN) competencies for end-of-life care assert the need for competent nursing care at the time of death. To prepare students to care for dying patients and their families, a hospice clinical experience in a community health nursing course was designed to facilitate the development of competence in caring for adults and children at the end of life. At the end of the semester, the students were able to demonstrate principles of pain and symptom management and to communicate the goals and philosophy of hospice care to dying patients and their families. The students also demonstrated the ability to advocate for individuals at the end of life through the provision of information about hospice care, especially the benefits for timely referral to hospice and palliative care. The incorporation of a clinical experience into a community health nursing course that focuses on end-of-life care is an effective approach to teaching both community health concepts and care of dying patients. Such an approach incorporates essential content without adding to already extensive nursing curricula.