End-of-life care involves not only the care of patients but also the care of those providing care for patients. The routine demands of providing care for patients in end-of-life situations often prevent nurses from working through the grief associated with the death of a patient, resulting in frustration, depression, stress, and eventually, burnout. It is important to recognize that grief and mourning are necessary steps in adjusting to the loss associated with the death of a patient or a loved one. The process of mourning can be likened to the process of healing, with predictable stages or tasks. As nurses providing quality end-of-life care, we can provide an opportunity for a patient's family to begin the process of grieving through appropriate interventions while the patient is still in the hospital or care facility. Recognizing and respecting the appropriateness of individual differences in grief responses creates a means of support for both patients and professionals in healthcare settings. By understanding grief as a predictable, yet individual, response to the loss of a patient or a loved one, we, as nurses, can take care of ourselves while providing quality end-of-life care for our patients.
Suzanne Rich, MA, RN, CT Supervisory Nurse Consultant, Product Evaluation Branch I, Division of Postmarket Surveillance, Office of Surveillance and Biometrics, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Md.
Corresponding author Suzanne Rich, MA, RN, CT, Product Evaluation Branch I, Division of Postmarket Surveillance, Office of Surveillance and Biometrics, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Food and Drug Administration, 1350 Piccard Dr, Rockville, MD 20850 (e-mail: SER@CDRH.FDA.GOV).
This article represents the professional opinion of the author and is not an official document, guidance, or policy of the US government, Department of Health and Human Services, or the Food and Drug Administration, nor should any official endorsement be inferred.