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Care During Death, Grief And Loss: The Effects Of A Workshop And Clinical Experience On Student Nurses' Attitudes And Actions

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Problem. Nurses, members of a society which tends to avoid and deny death, grief, and loss, are frequently in situations where they must interact with persons experiencing grief from death or loss. Often educational experiences have done little to prepare student nurses to cope in positive and supportive ways. Student nurses need to develop self-awareness of their attitudes and anxieties toward death, loss, and grief; modify negative attitudes; and develop a repertoire of interpersonal skills to support persons experiencing grief. Purpose. The purpose of this study was to determine if academic, and experiential learning could influence the clinical performance of student nurses and the degree of empathy and openness of the students' stated attitudes toward those experiencing or anticipating death, loss, or grief. Procedures. Attitudes of 42 nursing students were measured using the Questionnaire for Understanding the Dying Patient and His Family. A workshop was presented on attitude exploration, crisis theory, grief and loss, and communication skills. The workshop was followed by an immediate posttest using the same instrument. Selected students were given clinical assignments in a high risk maternity care center involving the care of families experiencing grief from loss or death. Eight weeks after the workshop, attitudes were measured for a third time. Clinical performance was evaluated by the student, the family, and the instructor. Findings. The level of significance was set at the .05. Significantly more positive scores were found on both the immediate and the delayed posttest than on the pretest. Evaluations by the student, the family, and the instructor were significantly more positive for the students with more open and empathetic attitudes than for students with less open and empathetic attitudes. Recommendations. Nursing education programs should include specific learning experiences which facilitate adaptation of student nurses in the modes of self-concept, role function, and interdependence as they learn to meet the holistic needs of individuals experiencing death, loss, and grief. Replication of this study using another age group or clinical setting would lend insight as to how attitudes and clinical behavior are influenced by age and by diagnosis.

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