the nursing curriculum and found that coursework varied greatly from school to school. Nurses were found to have had little supervised clinical experience with dying patients and had been given minimal guidance on handling their personal reactions and involvement with dying patients. Criticisms were also raised that the end-of-life curriculum is out of date and not based on current models of death education.

End-of-Life Nursing Curriculum and Nurses’ Preparedness for End-of-Life Care

Analytical studies of the U.S. nursing curriculum for end-of-life content have not yet been done, but a recent survey of nursing faculty and members of state nursing boards about their perceptions of this content provides a useful starting point (Ferrell et al., 1999). The survey is part of a larger project (funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) in which the three main nursing education associations are taking part, and the members of these three organizations were surveyed: the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.; the American Association of Colleges of Nursing; and the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission.

Of the 725 respondents (the number surveyed was not reported), one-third were deans or chairpersons of schools of nursing, just over half were faculty members, and four percent were consultants or staff of state nursing boards (the rest had various roles). The key finding was that the adequacy of end-of-life content in these schools was rated at 6–7 on a scale of 0 (not adequate) to 10 (very adequate). This held for each of 10 specific content areas (e.g., death and dying, pain management, ethical issues).

The survey respondents also called for resources to help faculty improve end-of-life content in the form of

  • Case studies

  • Access to clinical sites

  • Internet resources

  • Audiovisuals

  • Access to speakers, experts

  • Lecture guides or outlines on end-of-life topics

  • Computer-assisted instruction

  • Textbooks

  • Standardized curriculum

As part of the same overall project, a sample of nurses completed a survey on a number of end-of-life topics, including their assessment of the effectiveness of nursing education in this area. The nurses surveyed included volunteers (300 who mailed in the survey, which was published in two

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