As nurses provide care for the patients placed under them, they develop bonds with their patients. It is natural for nurses to want and expect their patients to get better and eventually leave the hospital. However, when a patient dies, nurses are rarely prepared for it. The passing of someone you developed a close bond with, can have ramifications for your personal life and in how you deal with future patients.
To most people death is an event they have to deal with a few times in their lives. For nurses, death can become a daily occurrence if you work in an oncology center or even in an intensive care unit.
What Determines your Response to a Patient’s death?
Your response rests on the bond formed between you and your patient. Some patients are much easier than others, and you may find yourself getting attached to them much faster. Whatever the case, when you bond with a patient, their loss will hit you hard.
How Close should a nurse get to a Patient?
Certain nurses feel that their ability to be objective and have an ethical patient relationship means not getting close to the patient. Others feel that to give the best care, you must have a strong bond. The problem comes in when a nurse gets too involved, and their grief over the loss of the patient disrupts their ability to function. This can cause complete mental and emotional breakdown which is detrimental to you, and the other patients you care for.
For someone who has never gone through the loss of someone close, the first brush with death can be quite jarring. Knowing that a patient is going to die can be quite difficult for a lot of nurses experiencing it for the first time.
The most difficult kind of deaths to deal with are the ones that are sudden, as there is no time to prepare yourself emotionally for it. On the other hand, prior knowledge that a patient is dying gives you the chance to prepare for it psychologically so that when the patient finally dies, you are not caught off guard.
After The Death
Once a patient dies, remember to compose yourself. Your response may catch you by surprise, but you need to accept it. As time goes by, you will find yourself healing and recovering from the loss of your patient.
Throughout. When interacting with the family, remember to remain professional throughout. The family may be fine with you participating in the grieving process, and sometimes they want you to leave them alone. Whatever they ask for, remember to give the best care at all times, regardless of what you are feeling. If you feel like you cannot handle the day’s work, ask for time off to get over it so that when you come back you can maintain a professional demeanor.
Death is part of the healthcare process, and it is unavoidable. It will happen frequently, so developing the tools to cope is necessary for the field of Nursing.