Nursing, as a profession, often involves dealing with the reality of death and the emotions that surround it. This is especially true for nurses working in specialties such as palliative care, oncology, intensive care, and geriatrics. The frequency of engagement with death can vary depending on the specific specialty and the setting in which a nurse works.
In my clinical specialty as a depression case manager in mental health, the frequency of witnessing death is relatively low compared to other specialties. However, it does occur occasionally, particularly in cases where patients struggle with severe depression and have a higher risk of suicide. These instances are emotionally challenging and can have a profound impact on one’s view of death.
Experiencing death in my work has shaped my view of death in several ways. Initially, when I was a novice nurse, witnessing death was accompanied by feelings of uneasiness and difficulty accepting the reality of mortality. However, as I gained more experience and encountered death more frequently, it became easier to accept the fact that death is an inevitable part of life.
One significant aspect that influenced my perspective on death was understanding the natural process of life and death. As I learned more about the human body, its vulnerabilities, and the progression of illnesses, it became clear that death is a natural outcome in certain situations. Accepting this reality enabled me to approach the death of my patients with more objectivity and professionalism.
Furthermore, my interactions with patients’ families and loved ones during the end-of-life phase played a crucial role in shaping my perception of death. Being present for grieving family members, providing emotional support, and witnessing their pain and acceptance granted me insight into the complex emotions surrounding death. This experience fostered empathy and a deeper understanding of the impact death has on those left behind.
As mentioned earlier, the absence of close family members or loved ones during a patient’s death is particularly challenging. Witnessing patients die alone evokes strong feelings of sadness and highlights the importance of companionship and support during the end-of-life journey. It serves as a reminder of the importance of fostering connections and providing emotional support to patients, especially those without a strong social support network.
Overall, while my clinical specialty may not involve frequent exposure to death, the experiences I have had have shaped my view of death and fostered a greater acceptance of its inevitability. The challenges of witnessing death, coupled with the understanding of its natural occurrence, have allowed me to approach this aspect of nursing with compassion, empathy, and a focus on providing holistic care to patients and their families.
Grand Canyon University. (2020). NRS-434VN Lecture and Workbook. PHI.