Autonomy and Human Dignity Are Key Features of a Good Death in Finnish Nurses’ Conceptions: A Phenomenographic Study

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Abstract

In Europe, most individuals die in hospitals or other health care institutions, where nurses care for them at the end of their lives. Despite the nurses’ important role in end-of-life care, their perceptions of death are underrepresented in the literature. This study explores Finnish nurses’ varied conceptions of a good death with a qualitative design. Nurses (n = 82), recruited via social media, completed a Web-based questionnaire about a good death. Data were collected in April 2014 and analyzed inductively with a phenomenographic, 7-step analysis method. The autonomy and human dignity of the dying person were highlighted in the study results as key features of a good death. Four categories of description emerged from the data: respect of one’s autonomy and human dignity, attributes of a good death, preparation for death, and contextual aspects of a good death. The findings demonstrate the broad variation in nurses’ conceptions of a good death. Nurses will be better able to provide individualized and high-quality end-of-life care with knowledge about the various existing conceptions of a good death. Future research should explore the extent to which nurses’ conceptions of a good death are realized during provision of end-of-life care by nurses in different health care settings.

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