R425 first year student nurses ‘experience of encounters with death of a patient during clinical placement

Lebogang Molefe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In the course of caring, nurses often experience the death of patients, and this experience has an effect on the nurse. Every nurse responds to this experience in a different way, and it can be either a negative emotional response, or a positive emotional response. As part of their curriculum, R425 first-year student nurses are placed in clinical facilities to acquire competency in nursing skills, and here they may be exposed to patients dying. R425 is a South African Nursing Council regulation relating to the approval of and the minimum requirements for the education and training of a nurse (General, Psychiatric, and Community) and Midwife, leading to registration. End-of-life care can be rewarding, yet emotionally and psychologically challenging. Little is known about R425 first-year student nurses’ experiences of patients dying while being cared for by nurses on clinical placement. The study, therefore, explored and describes R425 first-year student nurses’ experiences of the death of a patient during clinical placement. Method: A qualitative exploratory descriptive and contextual research design was adopted, and a purposive, nonprobability sampling approach applied. Data were collected through unstructured individual interviews with 15 R425 first-year student nurses. Data were analysed using content analysis. Results: Four themes emerged, namely, knowledge, psychological trauma, low self-esteem, and nutritional disorders, and subthemes were identified. Results reveal both negative and positive responses to encountering the death of patients, with more negative responses, and fewer positive responses. Conclusion: Results show that first-year student nurses struggle to cope with the death of a patient, mainly because they lack knowledge and the skills required to provide end-of-life nursing. It is the requirement for student nurses to be competent in a skill, ‘last office’, which involves laying out of a dead person. Such skill can be deferred in the first year of study, and can only be introduced at a later stage, either in third year or fourth year of study, when students are better equipped with knowledge and skills relating to dealing with death. There is a need to review the curriculum of R425 first-year student nurses, so that outcomes such as death and dying can be introduced in the third or fourth year of study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number246
Pages (from-to)246
JournalBMC Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical placement
  • Death
  • Encounter
  • Experience
  • Patient
  • R425 student nurses


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