Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Family and Consumer Sciences Education and Studies


A curriculum unit on death and dying was developed to meet the needs of dietetic students who are beginning their clinical experiences. The impact of this unit on the students' understanding of the grief process, their attitudes toward death and working with the dying, and their ability to counsel seriously ill patients was evaluated. The unit contained lecture outlines on understanding the grief process and prevention of professional burnout; and audiovisual materials were prepared for instructional use;The subjects for this study was 47 junior university students in three Coordinated Undergraduate Programs in dietetics. Demographic data were collected on age, size of community, religious preference and degree of religious conviction, and previous experience with death;Instruments were adopted or adapted to measure death fear, fear of interacting with the dying, dogmatism, empathy, knowledge of the grief process, attitudes toward working with the dying, and clinical performance;No significant changes were found in any of the attitude scores after the curriculum unit, although a majority indicated feeling more comfortable about working with the seriously ill. Clinical performance scores were significantly improved after the unit, but no significant relationships were located between these scores and other variables measured other than the weak (p < .10) relationship between performance and attitude scores. Students with a higher degree of religious conviction had lower death fear scores. Dietetic students were more dogmatic and less empathic on personality trait scales than values reported for students in other health professions. Scores for empathy and dogmatism were negatively related. Older students had somewhat higher empathy scores. Students who had positive attitudes about working with the dying had high empathy, low dogmatism, low death fear, low disengagement from death fear, and somewhat higher performance scores. Students who had experienced the death of a close friend had more positive attitudes toward working with the dying;The curriculum unit was well received by faculty and students, and the recommendation is made to include death education in the curriculum for dietetic students.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Mary Jane Oakland



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

128 pages