Nurses lack a comprehensive body of scientific knowledge to guide the palliative care of patients with nonmalignant conditions. Current knowledge and practice reveal that nurses in many instances are not well prepared to deal with death and dying. Focus groups were used in an exploratory study to examine the perceptions of palliative care among cardiorespiratory nurses (n = 35). Content analysis was used to reveal themes in the data. Four major themes were found: (1) searching for structure and meaning in the dying experience of patients with chronic disease, (2) lack of a treatment plan and a lack of planning and negotiation, (3) discomfort in dealing with death and dying, and (4) lack of awareness of palliative care philosophies and resources. The information derived from this sample of cardiorespiratory nurses represents a complex interplay between personal, professional, and organizational perspectives on the role of palliative care in cardiorespiratory disease. The results of the study suggest a need for nurses to be equipped on both an intellectual and a practical level about the concept of palliative care in nonmalignant disease.

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