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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Death education in nursing and medical curricula : an integrative literature review Powar, Amardeep


Death is an inevitable experience for each individual. Although death is a natural human experience, the avoidance of death is an issue in the culture at large. This isolation of death and dying also is evident in the health professions of nursing and medicine. Despite the fact that death and dying has received considerably more scholarly attention over time, relatively little attention has been given to the topic of death education. This study explores the literature on death education within nursing and medicine from the 1970s onwards. Using an integrative literature review, scholarly articles were reviewed to determine how death education is enacted or made real in the health care environment, particularly in the nursing and medical curricula. This study examines how educators have taught the topic of death and dying over time and how an analysis of these past experiences may inform current education on death related concepts within health professional fields. The lack of attention to death and dying in nursing and medical curricula affects the confidence and competence that health care professionals have in managing these situations. Although death is a common occurrence in the health care environment, there remains a gap in how educators are supported to teach these concepts to students. The analysis of scholarly literature from the 1970s until the present reveals three themes. The avoidance of death in the culture at large, the importance of psychosocial aspects of care, and the lack of support for educators are three over-arching themes. The main recommendations for educators teaching death related topics appearing in the literature reviewed center on ensuring student contact with terminally ill and dying patients in the clinical setting as a way to learn about the dying process, use of simulation based learning, encouraging collaboration amongst the interdisciplinary team to meet patient and family needs, and the use of explicit competencies related to end-of-life care to ensure consistency amongst all students. The findings from this review are relevant for student learning, educator preparation, and may also influence how educators in the health professions incorporate death and dying concepts into their curricula.

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