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critical care, end of life care, nurses, nursing, palliative care, qualitative research



  1. Wells, Celia PhD, RN
  2. Bressler, Toby PhD, RN, OCN, FAAN


Modern health care delivery incorporates technology to prolong life for those with serious illnesses. As technology continues to advance, the critical care nurses' role particularly at the end of life (EOL) continues to evolve, requiring higher levels of care. This contributes to an already complex environment for nurses to practice. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of critical care nurses in providing care for patients at EOL. This qualitative descriptive study describes the experience of 216 critical care nurses across the United States. Content analysis illuminated 5 themes: We Can't Fix Everyone, Task-Oriented Nursing, A Profession of Broken Individuals, Unaware and Unprepared, and A Hand to Hold. Study findings provide a unique perspective of critical care nurses and the health care delivery for patients and families at EOL. This study supports the imperative of creating and sustaining healthy work environments and palliative care education as essentials for critical care nurses who care for patients at EOL.