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Suffering and Dying Nursing Home Residents: Nurses' Perceptions of the Role of Family Members

Lopez, Ruth Palan PhD, APRN, BC

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: May-June 2007 - Volume 9 - Issue 3 - p 141-149
doi: 10.1097/01.NJH.0000269994.21249.f6

As American society ages, nursing homes will increasingly be the site of death for many people. Therefore, it is essential that nurses, as the primary professional in nursing homes, are prepared to provide high-quality, compassionate, end-of-life care. This article describes a qualitative study of nursing home nurses' perceptions of suffering of nursing home residents at the end of life. Analysis of the data revealed that nurses defined suffering of residents to be physical, psychosocial, and existential. They also believed that family members were involved in the suffering of nursing home residents, and the suffering has a significant impact on the nurses. This article describes themes associated with these categories and highlights the need for nurses to act as knowledgeable guides for family members making end-of-life treatment decisions. This study holds important implications for nursing practice and education.

Ruth Palan Lopez, PhD, APRN, BC, is a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner, Assistant Professor, and Coordinator of the Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Program, MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, MA, and a John A. Hartford Geriatric Nursing Research Scholar.

Address correspondence to Ruth Palan Lopez, PhD, APRN, BC, 36 1st Avenue, Boston, MA 02129-4557 (e-mail:

© 2007 The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association