Nursing the dying: A descriptive survey of Australian undergraduate nursing curricula

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This paper reports on the results of a descriptive study that explored death and dying education in Australian undergraduate nursing curricula conducted as phase one of a two-phase, longitudinal mixed-method study. A descriptive study using survey method was selected. Thirty-nine Deans of Nursing (or their equivalent position title) were invited to participate. The study setting involved university schools of nursing (or equivalent title) in the six states and two territories of Australia. A mailed survey was self-administered by participants. Descriptive statistics were used to generate a description of the current curricula practices used by Australian undergraduate nursing programmes to provide death and dying education. A response rate of 76% (n = 26) was achieved. The results show death and dying education has a minimal and inconsistent presence in Australian undergraduate nursing programmes. The main conclusions include: (i) little evidence exists of significant change to the provision of death and dying education in undergraduate nursing curricula since the 1960s; (ii) the conceptualization of death and dying education in Australian undergraduate nursing curricula is poorly designed and underdeveloped; (iii) what constitutes the ‘best’ death and dying education experiences remains unclear with little evidence to support decision-making; and (iv) reform of undergraduate nursing curricula is required to enhance graduate preparation to deliver contemporary practice especially in the area of caring for dying patients and their families.

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