Emotional burden of nurses in palliative sedation therapy

Tatsuya Morita, Mitsunori Miyashita, Rieko Kimura, Isamu Adachi, Yasuo Shima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Palliative sedation therapy is often required in terminally ill cancer patients, and may cause emotional burden for nurses. The primary aims of this study were 1) to clarify the levels of nurses' emotional burden related to sedation, and 2) to identify the factors contributing to the burden levels. Methods: A questionnaire survey of 3187 nurses, with a response rate of 82%. Results: Eighty-two percent of the nurses (n=2607) had clinical experience in continuous-deep sedation. Thirty per cent reported that they wanted to leave their current work situation due to sedation-related burden (answering occasionally, often, or always). Also, 12% of the nurses stated that being involved in sedation was a burden, 12% that they felt helpless when patients received sedation, 11% that they-would avoid a situation in which they had to perform sedation if possible, and 4% that they felt what they had done was of no value when they performed sedation. The higher nurse-perceived burden was significantly associated with shorter clinical experience, nurse-perceived insufficient time in caring for patients, lack of common understanding of sedation between physicians and nurses, team conference unavailability, frequent experience of conflicting wishes for sedation between patient and family, nurse-perceived inadequate interpersonal skills, belief that it was difficult to diagnose refractory symptoms, belief that sedation would hasten death, belief that sedation was ethically indistinguishable from euthanasia, nurse-perceived inadequate coping with their own grief, and nurses' personal values contradictory to sedation therapy. Conclusions: A significant number of nurses felt serious emotional burden related to sedation. To relieve nurses' emotional burden, we encourage 1) management efforts to reduce work overload, 2) a team approach to resolving conflicting opinions, especially between physicians and nurses, 3) co-ordination of early patient-family meetings to clarify their preferred end-of-life care, 4) education and training about sedation specifically focused on interpersonal skills, systematic approaches to diagnosing refractory symptoms, minimum life-threatening potency in sedation, and ethical principals differentiating sedation from euthanasia, and 5) exploring nurses' personal values through the patient-centered principle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-557
Number of pages8
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • End-of-life
  • Neoplasms
  • Nurse
  • Palliative
  • Sedation
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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