end-of-life nursing care in the ICU, futile nursing care in the ICU, good death in critical care, palliative nursing care in intensive care units (ICUs)



  1. Bratcher, Judy R. MN, BS, RN, BN


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore and describe the characteristics of a good death as defined by 15 critical care nurses working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at a hospital in a mid-sized urban city. The target population was registered nurses employed in the intensive care unit where the study was conducted. Given the fact that the sample population was a very specific group, a purposive, convenience sample was utilized to explore the personal thoughts and feelings of the nurses who volunteered for this project. A nondirective, in-depth interview technique was the method of data collection. Interviews lasted up to 60 minutes, and data was collected by tape recorder, then immediately transcribed verbatim; basic demographic data was collected at the beginning of each interview and this information was used to describe the sample.


In describing a good death in the ICU, most participants identified multiple themes. Eight main themes emerged from the nurses' responses to the research question, and of those, 3 were mentioned most often. The 3 most frequently mentioned themes were patient does not die alone, patient does not suffer (pain management/symptom management), and acceptance of death by the patient and/or loved ones. Much of what nurses described as elements of a good death in the ICU supports other published results. The themes that were identified in this research study provide an initial framework that is important for further research in the area of critical care nursing.