Comparative study of death anxiety among baccalaureate nursing students
The present cultural attitude toward death and dying in the American culture has been one of avoidance and denial. The most frequent behavioral response observed in the culture by many investigators and writers has been the perceived psychological posture of death fear or death anxiety. The most frequent acts of dying occur within the confines of an institutional setting. This often means that the patient is placed in an unfamiliar environment which is far removed from the patient’s basic support systems and his community life. The American cultural construct regarding death is a death anxiety orientation. Both the patient and the nurse have been socialized in the larger society to fear or be uncomfortable with the idea of death and dying. The nurse, however, of all the health care professionals in the individual charged with the long-term caring and administering of the needs of the terminally ill. The values and behaviors learned by the individual prior to the nursing education and socialization process are often acted upon by the nursing clinician or nursing student with the terminally ill patient and his growing family constellation. Much of the related literature spells out the degree of interpersonal alienation which the patient experiences, when the health care professional is unable to interact with the patient, in a humanistic or therapeutic manner. The study of death anxiety in baccalaureate nursing students was undertaken to gain an understanding of the phenomenon. Another significant purpose for this study was to gain an understanding in regard to when death education and experience would be benefit to the nursing student. A four group comparison study of pre-nursing sophomore nursing students, junior and senior nursing students with respect to the presence of death anxiety. Other aspects expected to influence death anxiety were 1) year enrolled in the program, 2) previous education, 3) recent personal loss, 4) previous death experience and death and dying education. The sample included 379 nursing and per-nursing students representing four different groups of students preparing for professional careers as nurses at the University of Utah. The study was conducted by using the Death Anxiety Scale developed by Templer (1970). A personal inventory sheet was constructed by the investigator and used in conjunction with the TS+DAS questionnaire. The TDS questionnaire was a fourteen item true-false test constructed to elicit respondent’s non-verbalized feelings about 1) fear of dying, 2) burial, the finality of death and many other areas surrounding deaths. The personal inventory sheet was constructed to test variables which may affect the level of death anxiety of the student. The TDAS scores and the variables which may affect death anxiety were compared. A one-way analysis of variance was used to compare the TDAS scores with the variables: 1) year in school, 2) recent personal loss, 3) religious preference and previous education. A Pearson R. Correlation was run to compare: 1) regency of death experience, 2) previous education completed, and 3) age. The hypotheses of the study for the most part were not upheld. A clear positive relationship existed between death experience and death anxiety as the student progress through the program. The highest peak of the positive correlation occurred in the first year of the clinical practice. Neither distance in time nor closeness in personal relationship with the deceased person affected the death anxiety scores. The tree dominant religion represent did not have a statistically significant effect on the death anxiety scores for any of the classes nor for the entire sample as a whole. The investigator made recommendation for future studies on the basis of this study.