The Impact of Patients' Deaths on Nurses

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Problem Statement

Problem Statement1

The impact of patients' deaths on nurses1

Sources of Research1

Theoretical Background2

Emotional Outcome on Nurses2

Influence of Culture3

Influence of Personal Experiences4


Practical Implications5



Problem Statement

Problem Statement

The main issue that formed the base of this research was, “In what ways a patient's death influences nurses and what support is available to them?” This literature review aims to explore the emotional, physical, spiritual, behavioral and cognitive effect of patient deaths on nursing staff.

The impact of patients' deaths on nurses

It cannot be denied that the death of a familiar person does have a profound impact on the person who is bereaved due to his or her death. A lot of research has been done regarding the effects of this emotional experience on nurses. Since they have more frequent encounters with patients as compared to other healthcare providers, nurses are usually noted to be staying long hours at hospitals (Costello, 2001).

The significance of this literature review rises from the fact that an identification of harmful affects on nurses' lives both domestically and professionally, from their responses. Also included is the crucial issue of identifying support groups in order to accommodate their bereavement.

Sources of Research

The main source for gathering secondary data included the CINAHL (Current Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature), PsychInfo and Medline databases. Peer reviewed articles were selected; the keywords used for searching include “nurses' bereavement”, “impact of patient death on staff”, and “nurses and attachment”. The outcome was a total of 50 articles, out of which 25 formed the basis of inclusion into this literature review. The ones that had been rejected were irrelevant to the research objective outlined above. A number of themes evolved as a result of this research, including theoretical background, emotional outcomes, healthcare culture, nurses' own experiences and the available support

Theoretical Background

The earliest research (documented in this paper) regarding the emotional impact of losing someone close was of Freud, who explored the melancholic aspects of loss and bereavement (Freud, 1949). The attachment theory was reviewed by Bowlby, and he also analyzed the anxiety of separation related to such loss (Bowlby, 1980). Similar work was produced by Lindermann, who covered the death ceremonies and mourning issues related to deaths (Lindermann, 1944).

A formulation of a series of grieving stages was proposed by Kubler Ross (Kubler Ross, 1973). Successful grieving tasks and the role of the grieving person was reviewed by Parkes and Worden (Parkes, 1975; Worden, 1991). Another adjustment model was proposed by Stroebe & Schutt, namely the “Dual Process Model” (Stroebe & Schutt, 1999). Furthermore, the inability to express the experienced sadness and emotions by grieving people was explored by Kenneth Doka (Doka, 1997).

Emotional Outcome on Nurses

A quantitative study was conducted by Rickerson and his colleagues, which examined the emotional impact of patient deaths on nurses. The main research tool was a survey; findings concluded crying and feeling sad as reported grief activities (Rickerson et al., 2005).

Fatigue of compassion was reviewed by Meaders and Lamson (Meaders & Lamson, 2008). Questionnaires gathered data which upon processing and analyzing revealed that the intensity ...
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