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Gaceta Sanitaria

Print version ISSN 0213-9111


VELARDE-GARCIA, Juan Francisco et al. End of life care difficulties in intensive care units. The nurses’ perspective. Gac Sanit [online]. 2017, vol.31, n.4, pp.299-304. ISSN 0213-9111.


To describe the difficulties perceived by nursing staff in the delivery of end-of-life care to critically ill patients within intensive care units (ICU).


A descriptive phenomenological qualitative study was performed. A purposeful and snowball sampling of nursing staff with at least 1 year's previous experience working in an ICU was conducted. Twenty-two participants were enrolled. Data collection strategies included in-depth unstructured and semi-structured interviews and researcher's field notes. Data were analysed using the Giorgi proposal.


Three themes were identified: academic-cultural barriers, related to the care orientation of the ICU and lack of training in end of life care; architectural-structural barriers, related to the lack of space and privacy for the patient and family in the last moments of life; and psycho-emotional barriers, related to the use of emotional detachment as a strategy applied by nursing staff.


Nursing staff need proper training on end-of-life care through the use of guidelines or protocols and the development of coping strategies, in addition to a change in the organisation of the ICU dedicated to the terminal care of critically ill patients and family support.

Keywords : Intensive care units; Critical care nursing; Terminal care; Nurse-patient relationship; Qualitative research.

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