How the Death of a Client Can Impact on Health Professionals

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In this essay, my aim is to discuss how the death of a client can impact on health professionals – focusing mainly on nurses. I will also talk about why it is important for caregivers to work through the stages of the grieving process themselves.

‘Death is a natural progression from life. Most nurses will be exposed to the physical and emotional effects of this experience as they care for a dying patient. The nurse is taught how to provide support for the patient and family as they proceed through the stages of grief. Often, however the nurse may not realise his or her own need to grieve.’ (Brosche, 2003 p. 173)

When a client dies, regardless of the age or circumstances, there is an extreme sense of loss for the client’s family, friends and health care providers (Rudy, 2008). Many studies have been undertaken in relation to the nurse helping the client with his or her grief, or the nurse helping the family work through the process of losing a loved one (Brunelli, 2005). Rudy (2008) states that helping the family deal with their loss may be therapeutic for the health professional, while Rich (2002) argues that although the expectations of nurses to extend themselves beyond professional barriers may be of huge benefit for patients and their families, sadly they are often at the risk of the nurse’s own wellbeing (Brosche, 2003). The clients and families experience such an event, once. What about the nurse who must experience the death of clients several times a week? How does a nurse work through such a loss (Brunelli, 2005)? Rich (2002) states that repeated losses may build up without sufficient time for the nurse to process them, which results in exhaustion of the nurse’s ability to cope.

Nurses, as well as the family, feel an acute sense of loss, both professionally and personally. Professionally for instance, when the nurse notices signs of the patient dying due to particular treatments or interventions failing – he or she may feel guilty, angry or...
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