Reflecting on one's own death: The existential questions that nurses face during end-of-life care

Margareta Karlsson, Anne Kasen, Carola Wärnå-Furu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Objective: When registered nurses care for patients at the end of life, they are often confronted with different issues related to suffering, dying, and death whether working in hospital or community care. Serious existential questions that challenge nurses' identities as human beings can arise as a result of these situations. The aim of our study was to describe and gain a deeper understanding of nurses' existential questions when caring for dying patients.Method: Focus-group interviews with registered nurses who shared similar experiences and backgrounds about experiences in end-of-life care were employed to gain a deeper understanding about this sensitive subject. Focus-group interviews were performed in hospice care, in community care, and in a palliative care unit in western Sweden. A qualitative hermeneutic approach was employed to interpret the data.Results: Nurses' existential questions balanced between responsibility and guilt in relation to their patients, between fear and courage in relation to being professional caregivers and fellow human beings, and between hope and despair in relation to the other's and their own death.Significance Of Results: Nurses in end-of-life care experience various emotions from patients related to things physical, spatial, and temporal. When nurses encounter these emotions as expressing a patient's suffering, they lead to challenges of balancing between different feelings in relation to patients, as both professional caregivers and fellow human beings. Nurses can experience growth both professionally and as human beings when caring for patients at the end of life
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1–10
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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