Methods: Databases assessed for identification of articles included: PubMed, EBSCOHost, ERIC, and CINAHL. Inclusion criteria were: peer-reviewed, written in English, published in or before 2015 (when review conducted), and assessed characteristics of undergraduate (associate degree and baccalaureate degree) nursing students.
Results: Twenty-five articles met inclusion criteria. Within these articles, authors reported characteristics to describe the sample (n=15) or to identify associations of the characteristics with certain variables (n=10). Across all identified studies, age (n=19) and gender (n=19) were the most frequently assessed variable. While age had a positive impact on other variables when measured, gender did not. Previous experiences in caring for dying persons (n=13) and with death/loss (n=9) as well as previous education on end-of-life care (n=10) and religion (n=9) were analyzed consistently in the literature and appeared to have some impact on other variables measured. Less frequently measured characteristics were aspects of academic progression or previous education (n=7), ethnicity/race (n=6), program of enrollment (n=6), aspects of previous healthcare experiences (n=4), and place of residence (n=3).
Discussion & Conclusions: Characteristics recommended to be measured in palliative and end-of-life care research are: age, previous experience in caring for dying persons, previous experience with death/loss, previous education on end-of-life care, and religion. Program of enrollment should be measured when appropriate for the study design. Measurement of other characteristics is not supported in the literature. Two gaps in extant literature were also identified. First, the optimum means by which to collect information, apart from gender, remains unclear. Second, characteristics are analyzed inconsistently in literature, leading to unclear impact of characteristics on other variables measured within palliative and end-of-life education research. Implications for future research will be presented.
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