Background Student nurses often feel unprepared to care for and communicate with dying patients and have particular fears and anxieties before their first placement (Cavaye & Watts, 2014; Poultney, Berridge, Malkin, 2014). Educators need to help nurses recognise and confront their own reactions to death and to prepare nurses for this experience (Henoch, Melin-Johansson, Bergh, Strang et al., 2017; Dickinson, Clark & Squire, 2008).
Aims To allow opportunities for student nurses to discuss their beliefs and attitudes to death and dying and to voice their fears, anxieties and positive thoughts about caring for people who are dying.
Methods All first year adult nurses in 2018–19 attended a 2 hour interactive workshop in groups of 30–40 with two facilitators. Students were advised of the content in advance to allow discussion of personal issues which might require the student to opt out. Students were asked to discuss words which came to mind when thinking about death and dying, what might be important to them if they were dying and their anxieties and any positive thoughts about caring for dying people. One cohort (30 students) were asked to identify key learning.
Results 100% of students reported the session was useful and specifically identified the interactive approach as helpful in facilitating learning and managing the emotional subject matter. Students identified key learning points as: feeling more confident in what to expect when caring for the dying; importance of communication and talking about death; empathy; realisation that other students have similar worries; and identifying where to get support. Five (17%) students reported that the session would have been better shorter as it was emotional.
Conclusion Evaluation of a pilot workshop for undergraduate student nurses has demonstrated positive learning. A substantial minority find this learning has a high emotional impact. This pilot is the first step in examining students’ perceptions and anxieties about caring for dying people and integrating educational support within the undergraduate curriculum.
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