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Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2010 Feb;27(1):24-30. doi: 10.1177/1049909109341873. Epub 2009 Sep 29.

Psychiatric nurses' expertise, interest in end-of-life care, and requests for continuing education on end of life.

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Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, California, USA.



The time before dying can be extremely challenging and stressful. Gaps in end-of-life care include inadequate communication, education about end-of-life options, symptom control, and management of common mental illnesses (eg, mood disorders, dementia), and death anxiety. Psychiatric nurses are in a pivotal position to help address these gaps and improve end-of-life care. Psychiatric nurses can facilitate communication about end of life, educate patients about options, and provide consultation, assessment, and management of common psychosocial needs (eg, mood disorders, grief, and loss).


This survey examined psychiatric nurses' perspectives of their skills, knowledge, expertise, continuing education needs, and recommendations for the role of the psychiatric nurse.


Using a descriptive design, we surveyed a convenience sample of psychiatric nurses from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.


Psychiatric nurses reported they were skilled in discussions of difficult topics, evaluation of mental status, and assessment and management of mood disorders, grief, and suicide risk. However, nurses asked for continuing education in focusing these skills for end of life, knowing the needs of the dying patient, and differentiating depression and dementia at end of life. Requests for continuing education on end-of-life care included issues about how to apply these psychiatric skills and knowledge to the dying patient and their families.


Psychiatric nurses have skills and knowledge to reduce the gaps in end-of-life care. Many request continuing education to assist them to expand and focus their knowledge to use their psychosocial skills and to develop a specialty area in end-of-life care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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