Brittany Hall



Handling Emotions After Patient Death: Helping Students Experience Death of a Patient Through Simulation

Primary Investigator: Brittany Hall, BSN, RN

Purpose:  To determine if an educational intervention using simulation of a death event with debriefing could increase the confidence and preparedness of senior nursing students in coping with patient death.  

Methods:  This study took place at a major university in the southeastern US with a convenience sample of 15 senior nursing students.  A survey exploring student preparedness with emotional coping, expectations, attitudes and levels of confidence in handling death was completed before and after a death simulation, debriefing, and education were provided. 

Results:  Descriptive statistics were utilized to analyze the findings. After completing the activities, 81% of participants said they felt prepared to handle patient death. The ways in which students would handle patient death, such as discussion with peers and seeking assistance, increased after the simulation and education as well.  

Discussion:  Although the sample size limits the generalizability of the study results, the findings support the need for nursing students to be prepared to handle their emotions concerning patient deaths prior to entering practice. With simulation, education, and debriefing, the student can better prepare for ways of dealing and coping with frequent death.  

Conclusions: Although patient deaths occur frequently, nursing education is primarily focused on maintaining life, not on death.  Incorporating simulation and debriefing into the nursing realm relating to death and dying has been proven to better prepare students to handle their emotions when dealing with patient death. Confidence and preparedness in coping with patient deaths should occur in the learning phase, so when death occurs in practice, the new graduate nurse will be better able to cope with death.   


Major Professor: Denise Tucker, PhD, RN, CCRN 



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