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communication, competency, end-of-life education, nursing education, nursing student, palliative nursing, simulation



  1. Jeffers, Stephanie PhD, RN
  2. Lippe, Megan P. PhD, RN
  3. Justice, Amanda BSN, RN
  4. Ferry, Dawn APRN, CHSE
  5. Borowik, Kara BSN, RN
  6. Connelly, Cera BSN, RN


Effective communication skills are required when nurses care for patients and their families navigating life-limiting illness and the end of life. Educators have made great strides in integrating end-of-life content into prelicensure curricula. It is critical to evaluate nursing students' perceptions of their communication skills to empirically guide the development and implementation of future education interventions. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to explore nursing students' perceptions of their verbal and nonverbal communication competence when providing end-of-life care. Students participated in an established high-fidelity simulation focused on difficult end-of-life conversations. Students explored their perceptions during postsimulation debriefing sessions. Colaizzi's method guided thematic analysis of the audio-recorded debriefings. One major theme emerged from the data: delivering bad news is difficult. Four subthemes further described this theme and its components: (1) reflecting on communication at end of life, (2) feeling uncomfortable, (3) calling for more exposure to end-of-life communication, and (4) fostering a supportive environment for patients and families. Results indicate that nursing students had anxiety and discomfort when engaging in end-of-life conversations. These findings support increased investments in additional training interventions to facilitate the development of student competence in end-of-life communication prior to entering the professional workforce.