Nurses' perceptions of educational gaps in delivering end-of-life care

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2011 Nov;38(6):711-7. doi: 10.1188/11.ONF.711-717.


Purpose/objectives: To assess end-of-life (EOL) care core competencies deemed most important with corresponding educational needs from oncology nurses and to describe the characteristics of the respondents that are associated with selection of the top-ranked core competencies.

Design: Descriptive, cross-sectional study.

Setting: Mailed and online surveys.

Sample: 714 members of the Oncology Nursing Society from Georgia, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Methods: Responses to a mailed or e-mailed researcher-developed questionnaire during a six-month period were collated and analyzed.

Main research variables: Ranking of EOL care core competencies and perceived gaps in EOL continuing education.

Findings: Almost all of the respondents indicated that EOL care was a part of their practice and that continuing education was important, but more than half of the respondents had fewer than two hours of continuing education regarding EOL care in the past two years. Twenty-five percent of the respondents do not believe they are adequately prepared to effectively care for a dying patient. Symptom management was the top-rated core competency, consistent across age, education level, practice role, and practice setting. How to talk to patients and families about dying and what comprises palliative care also was selected frequently.

Conclusions: Symptom management is the number one core competency, and the quantity and quality of EOL continuing education is inadequate. Educational gaps exist in EOL nursing care.

Implications for nursing: Assessing what nurses believe to be leading EOL core competencies is useful in improving educational curricula along with considering characteristics of nurses when planning EOL educational programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Nursing Education Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital* / education
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital* / psychology
  • Oncology Nursing* / education
  • Oncology Nursing* / standards
  • Terminal Care / standards*
  • Young Adult