Nancy Joyner

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Palliative care, also known as comfort care, involves the holistic care of patients when curative treatment is not effective. The principal factors of palliative care include the aggressive treatment of pain and other symptoms, including physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual problems. Nurses spend more time with patients and their families than any other health care professional, placing them in a position to provide palliative care in a variety of different settings. This requires nurses to have a sound knowledge base in this specialty. Not all nurses, however, are adequately prepared for or comfortable with palliative care.

The purpose of this study was to determine if a relationship existed between the knowledge and perception of nurses regarding palliative care and their capability to provide it. Ultimately, the goal of this study was to establish the need for a program of study for nurses regarding palliative care and to explore the development of such a program. The research questions were: 1) What are the perceptions of nurses in ND regarding palliative care? 2) What is the knowledge of nurses in ND regarding palliative care? and 3) Do selected demographics affect the knowledge and perception of ND nurses regarding palliative care?

This exploratory, descriptive study compared and analyzed the knowledge and perception of 78 nurses (RNs and LPNs) in ND regarding palliative care, using an aggregate of questions from three previous studies. The respondents completed a survey comprised of three sections: demographics, perception questions, and knowledge questions.

Effectively measuring knowledge and perceptions of palliative care can be critical and are important indicators for nursing education, research and practice. Most nurses had good-to-very-good perceptions of how they provide palliative care, yet many nurses had difficulty with certain survey questions. Being either an LPN or RN did made difference with regard to how the nurse did on the palliative care knowledge survey questions.

There were noted discrepancies between the level of knowledge and level of perceptions, unrelated to the level of nursing practice. Palliative care education should start in basic nursing educational programs and be continued both in practice and graduate programs.