DEALING WITH DEATH ON THE JOB as a caregiver

Death on the Job

The death of a patient is a harsh reality in nursing. Learning to deal with it and knowing what to expect is a necessary part of the job, and critical to your own well-being.

 As compassionate caregivers, you are used to expecting improved outcomes, but are rarely prepared for the demise of a patient.

The passing of a favorite patient can impact your personal lives and influence the care you provide for your entire career. After all, death to most people is a major life event.

the bond between patient and caregiver

While death should never be taken lightly, it may mean more or less to you on a personal level depending on circumstances and your bond with the patient. There will be patients with whom you bond quickly and strongly, while others come and go.

But where do you draw the line? How close is too close when it comes to your patient relationships? Some caregivers consider it a weakness to show emotion or to even let on that they care. Others believe a strong patient bond is a necessary part of care giving, allowing you to be a better advocate for your patient.

And then there are the caregivers who become completely involved. Caregivers in these situations run the risk of losing control and becoming so emotionally distraught that they cannot perform their duties due to grief.

The Waiting period

The Patient Bond

The Patient Bond

The first death of a patient is intimidating at best. It’s hard to know what to expect, and how to prepare, especially if it’s the first time you’ve come across death at all. The anticipation can be especially overwhelming for those who have never experienced the death of someone close. Not knowing what to expect causes all sorts of anxious feelings. Until you have experienced it for yourself a few times over, you won’t know how you’ll react.

Death comes at us from all angles. A sudden, unexpected death can be the hardest to deal with, for you and  the family. On the other side, some deaths can drag on for weeks, months, making the grieving process slower, longer, and less intense.

The After - effect

Take a moment to compose yourself. Everyone’s reaction to death is different. You may find yourself in tears, or quietly accepting the passing of your patient. You may get through the event with only a few tears, but later experience an emotional break down at home. It’s all part of the process. Over time, you will find the best way to cope with it for yourself.

The Family

The important thing to remember when dealing with the death of a patient is that it’s okay to share emotions and tears with the family members of your patient as long as your care is not compromised.

Always maintain control and never become part of the families problem, no matter what the situation is. For this to happen, some caregivers must remain neutral and in control of their emotions. Be respectful to the family, and if they don’t want you to participate, leave them to their own grief and express yours elsewhere.


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