Caring for patients at end-of-life is a difficult patient assignment for a nurse. Possessing the knowledge, skills, and means to communicate with and advocate for patients is key to providing quality care. A concept analysis of death literacy identified one specific challenge for nurses, futile care. Futile care has been linked to increased patient suffering, increased health care costs, use of scarce resources, and moral distress. Futile care exists in the medical-surgical acute care setting, but the concept has not been explored within this population. More knowledge from bedside nurses was needed to explore the concept and identify ways to improve care. The purpose of this research was to explore the concept of death literacy related to nursing and to determine what treatments medical-surgical nurses determined to be futile care treatments, how they defined futile care, and suggestions for improving patient outcomes. Additionally, a three round Delphi study was conducted to explore futile care within the medical-surgical patient population and to gain consensus from medical-surgical nurses regarding futile care, the role of the nurse, and suggestions to improve care of medical-surgical patients.

Date of publication

Fall 12-10-2018

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Dr. Gloria Duke, Dr. Barbara Haas, Dr. Susan Yarbrough, Dr. Jodie Gary



Available for download on Thursday, December 10, 2020

Included in

Nursing Commons