There were 147098 deaths recorded in New South Wales in 2012 of these over twenty thousand were recorded in Hospitals across New South Wales. “It is acknowledged that the death of someone known to an individual has an impact on the person experiencing the bereavement.” Kubler Ross
Nurses are on the front line when it comes to patient care, but what effect does the death of a patient have on the nurse caring for them?
The death of a patient is an event that most, if not all, nursing staff will encounter during there working life. This experience can elicit physical, cognitive, behavioural, spiritual and emotional responses.
What is known about how nurses cope with the death of a patient?
To find out what kind of effect the loss of a patient has on the nurses looking after them, I asked two nurses, at very different stages of their careers about their experience.
Lucinda has worked as a registered nurse for twenty five years in the public healthcare system. She has worked in many different areas within nursing including Surgical, Medical, Recovery, Palliative Care, and Paediatrics. Her first experience of patient death was as a student nurse with little life experience. Patient death now has become, not so much easier but has now learnt better strategies to cope with the grief.
Cody has just finished his first year working as an AIN (Assistant in Nursing) for the Illawarra Retirement Trust. Although he has only been working for a short amount of time he has already had to deal with the deaths of some of the residents he cares for.
Cody explained to me that the managers try to make sure the nurses are never on one ward for too long so that they don’t get to close to the patients, as most of them are in the end stage of life.
While doing research for this piece, I tried to find what policies were in place to help nurses with the grief that comes with losing a patient. What I found was that it was all dependent on the company that the nurses are employed by. So when we say ‘Don’t forget to care for the carers’, are we remembering to include our nurses?