Monday, November 7, 2011

Experiencing Death in Hospice

I have not been writing much on this blog due to being extremely busy. I am working full-time, going to school, and taking care of two sons alongside my wife. This is a post that I made in the online portion of a nursing class. It is regarding how me, my coworkers, and our hospice organization deals with the deaths of our patients.

Death. At times it is a relief. Even in times of relief, there is always an element of grief. Death of a patient is never easy no matter how much it was expected nor how much suffering was experienced by the patient. Every human being's life is a blessing and is eternally valued. After experiencing many deaths with whom there is an element of compassion, nurses and other health professionals "may...experience a state of exhaustion and a biological, psychological, and social dysfunction called...compassion fatigue" (Papadatou 2000).

In experiencing a death, I pray, reach out for support from my immediate supervisor, discuss the experience with other nurses, get a hug from my wife, and watch my children be happy. Other times the endless amount of paperwork and other job responsibilities distract me from being required to appropriate grieve.

In supporting a coworker who has experienced a patient loss, I direct conversations regarding the patient to them. I ask my coworker what the patient was like. If I know the patient, then I mention the positive qualities that I noticed regarding the patient.

Our organization is a small business and has a lot of work to do. Admission, death, admission, death... it never seems to stop. I have asked management a number of times to institute a biweekly meeting for all of the staff to give support to one another regarding patient death. However, nothing has yet been implemented. There is such a great need for this type of institutionalized support for our workers. I have felt the need for such a meeting a great number of times. I can tell that the stress of paperwork, patient care, time-management, overtime, and patient death has put a heavy burden on many of my coworkers. It is sorely needed and I will again make the suggestion. Our company does not allow any paid time off to attend funerals although they are always very willing to grant time-off.

Grief is something that all people will experience. It is not always from the loss of a loved one. However, the loss of a loved one is one of the most dramatic losses. The loss of a patient can also be very dramatic and requires support systems from coworkers, family, and institutional assistance. Our organization needs to address the compassion fatigue that many of us have been experiencing.

This is a long quote, but Suzanne Rich in 2005 published words that explain my feelings really well:

When a patient under our care dies, we may feel an acute sense of loss, both professionally and personally. Professionally, if a particular treatment or intervention fails, and a patient clearly shows signs of dying, we may feel eesponsible, guilty, angry, depressed, or helpless. On a personal level, if we are unable to relieve or control a patient's symptoms, such as nausea or pain, we may feel incapable of dealing with a dying patient.

Papadatou, D. (2000). A proposed model of health professionals' grieving process. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 41(1), 59-77.
Rich, S. (2005). Providing quality end-of-life care. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 20(2), 141-145.


Unknown said...

Totally agreed with your point of views. It is important to teach women and men techniques for primary prevention of pregnancy. I found your article informative which is highly refreshing. Keep up the great work and wonderful luck!
women infertility

Tonal Bliss said...

Are you referring to the Coping with Abortion post?

The entirety of the post was not about primary prevention of pregnancy. Indeed, it is about those whom have had abortions in their past.

Regarding primary prevention of pregnancy: it is imperative to teach patients that the only form of birth-control that is 100% effective is abstinence. It is also important to teach patients the harmful effects that hormonal and some other forms of birth control have on a developing embryo and the health of the woman.

Thank you for posting.