Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 8-20-1965


This study investigated the criteria which were used most and least by a selected group of professional nurses to judge whether a patient was dying. It was assumed that nurses made these kinds of judgments and acted upon them in planning for patient care. The purposes of the study were: (1) to determine the frequency with which certain criteria were used by these nurses to decide that a patient was dying, (2) to clarify the components of nursing decisions about dying patients, and (3) to contribute to an operational definition of nursing judgments about dying patients. The Q-sort method was employed for the study. Statements written within the categories of recorded, intuitive, objective, and diagnostic data were sorted from most descriptive to least descriptive of the dying patient by twenty selected professional nurses on the medical and surgical units in a university medical center hospital. Analysis was carried out by comparing (1) the response patterns of the Individual subjects grouped by length of nursing experience, and (2) the means and standard deviations of individual items and their categories. Results of the study showed that the subjects used objective data most frequently and intuitive data least frequently in making a judgment that a patient was dying. Both the type and the length of previous nursing experiences were found to be crucial factors in the judgments by the nurse. The more experienced nurses responded more consistently within categories. The less experienced nurses tended to rely more on the decisions of others through recorded data. The criteria of immediacy and Irreversibility of death were used most by nurses in making their decisions. The role of intuition was felt to be ambiguous since responses to items in this category were highly variable. An operational definition using twelve items from the sort was devised for illustrative purposes. Recommendations for further research were made on the basis of findings of the study.