Nearly 260, 000 patients pass on in the National Health Service hospital facilities in the United Kingdom. This is approximately 56% of the total number of patient deaths recorded in the year 2008 and is in total contrast to 16% of patients who pass on at home, 9% that die in hospices and 18% that die in community health facilities(Office for National Statistics, 2010).
It is acknowledged that the demise of someone familiar or known to someone has a great psychological effect on the person experiencing bereavement. There have been numerous studies that have been carried out over the years to comprehend the impact of bereavement on individuals. This has been developed from Sigmund Freud’s melancholia study to recent theorists who have identified the significance of comprehending and making sense of the demise or death of an individual.
Nurses are seen or identified to have more contact with patients than any other workers in the health profession. In some scenarios of heightened care patients are admitted in hospitals. This admissions and prolonged stay at the hospital makes them and their kins familiarize with nurses and other healthcare staff. The significance of this literature review is to note or identify if there are detrimental effects of responses by nursing personnel which might have an impact on their lives at home or work and to identify support mechanisms that might be necessary.
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Emotional Impact of a patient death on health care staff
Rickerson et al (2005) conducted a quantitative study that surveyed 203 staff working in six long-term care institutions in the United States of America (USA). This study found that personnel experiencing most grief related symptoms were those who had served longest in this institutions and had long and closer ties with the patients that passed on. The symptoms that were surveyed in this research were physical, emotional, ties with family and co-workers, and effects on performance at both the workplace and home.
The constraints of the study were mainly in the manner and nature of questions asked in the survey. The questions were set rigid such that the interview could not capture any other effects experienced that were not contained in the questionnaire. The long term care setting of the survey also makes the findings not generaliseable to an acute setting in another hospital facility
The research also found compassion fatigue levels were significantly high for nurses and other healthcare personnel caring for children living with chronic conditions such as cancer compared to adults with the same chronic conditions (Costello, 2001). Compassion fatigue occurs where health staff fails to provide the same level of compassion to patients and their kins as they had previously (Papadatou et al, 2001).
All the studies discussed evidently show that the deaths of patients do impact on their care givers, nurses and other health personnel. Further studies into some areas discussed can provide insightful information regarding how to support nursing staff in these scenarios. This can dwell on compassion fatigue can be controlled or prevented in various hospital settings and cultural environments. The studies in this review focus on a small range of healthcare areas and specialties. Other areas that will be reviewed are less acute settings which include long-term care facilities where patients can be admitted for long periods i. e. months and years. Further research is needed to guide practice in general wards and to note the response and necessities of the nursing personnel in these areas.
– . Does the gravity of the impact of a patient’s death on a nursing staff depend on the genders of both the caregiver and the patient?
– Does the time length of interaction between a patient and a caregiver determine the gravity of the impact of a patient’s demise?
– Do young nursing personnel respond differently to patient’s death compared to old nursing personnel?
– Does the nursing personnel performance get affected by the death of patients under their care?
Costello J. (2001) Nursing older dying patients; findings from an ethnographic study
of death and dying in elderly care wards Journal of Advanced Nursing 35(1) 59-68
Office for National Statistics (2009) Mortality Statistics; Deaths registered in 2007
[online] www. statistics. gov. uk [last accessed 22 September 2010]
Papadatou D et al (2001) Caring for Dying Children; a comparative study of nurses’
experiences in Greece and Hong Kong Cancer Nursing 24(5) 402-412
Rickerson E. et al (2005) how well are we caring for caregivers? Prevalence of grief
related symptoms and need for bereavement support among long term care staff