General nurses' experiences of end-of-life care in the acute hospital setting: a literature review

Int J Palliat Nurs. 2013 Oct;19(10):510-6. doi: 10.12968/ijpn.2013.19.10.510.


Approximately 90% of the UK population spend some time in hospital in their final year of life, and more than half of the population die in hospital. This review aims to explore the experiences of general nurses when providing end-of-life care to patients in the acute hospital setting. Nine studies were identified through a literature search, and each was then analysed and evaluated until themes emerged. Six themes were drawn from the literature: lack of education and knowledge, lack of time with patients, barriers arising in the culture of the health-care setting, communication barriers, symptom management, and nurses' personal issues. The themes cause concern about the quality of end-of-life care being provided in the acute care setting. The literature appears to be consistent in the view that terminally ill patients are best cared for in specialised care settings, such as palliative care units and hospices. However, increasing demands on health services will result in greater numbers of dying patients being admitted to the acute hospital setting. It is therefore paramount that general nurses' educational needs are met to ensure they develop clinical competence to provide high-quality holistic end-of-life care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Holistic Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / education
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Terminal Care / organization & administration*
  • Terminal Care / psychology
  • United Kingdom