My Patient Died: A National Study of Nursing Students’ Perceptions After Experiencing a Patient Death

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The purpose of this study was to examine, on a national level, nursing students’ perceptions after experiencing a patient death.


Death is a highly stressful experience for nursing students. Debriefing, which routinely occurs with a patient’s demise in the simulation setting, typically does not happen in actual death situations.


A mixed-methods design using quantitative and qualitative questions as part of an anonymous survey was sent to the membership of the National Student Nurses’ Association. Of approximately 55,000 members, 2,480 responded to the survey.


Experiencing a patient death as a student occurred for 41 percent of participants in the nationally representative sample. Of those who experienced a patient death, 64 percent did not receive any debriefing.


Most nursing students did not feel prepared to care for a dying patient and the patient’s family. Students need and want more education on end-of-life nursing care.

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