Coping With Death and Dying: Professional Caregiver Issues
Whether practicing in the trauma center, intensive care unit or other acute care setting, home care, hospice, long-term care, or the many locations where patients and their families receive am-bulatory services, nurses are closely involved with complex and emotionally laden issues surrounding loss of life. To be most ef-fective and satisfied with the care they provide, nurses need to at tend to their own emotional responses to the losses they witness every day.
Well before the nurse exhibits symptoms of stress or burnout, he or she should acknowledge the difficulty of coping with others’ pain on a daily basis and put healthy practices in place that will guard against emotional exhaustion. In hospice set-tings, where death, grief, and loss are expected outcomes of pa-tient care, interdisciplinary colleagues rely on each other for support, using meeting time to express frustration, sadness, anger, and other emotions; to learn coping skills from each other; and to speak about how they were affected by the lives of those pa-tients who have died since the last meeting. In many settings, staff members organize or attend memorial services to support fami-lies and other caregivers, who find comfort in joining each other to remember and celebrate the lives of patients. Finally, healthy personal habits, including diet, exercise, stress reduction activities (such as dance, yoga, t’ai chi, meditation), and sleep, will help guard against the detrimental effects of stress.