Nurses - Dying and Grieving

When caring for their patients

Nurses are given many obligations. They are obligated to provide assistance for their patients' overall health. In the case of acute illnesses, they must nurse their patients back to health. When dealing with chronic illnesses, nurses are obligated to ensure that patients die peacefully and respectfully. Caring for the dying is gaining importance, and healthcare providers are expected to offer adequate care for the dying and bereaved.

Nursing interventions required when coping with dying patients

Nursing interventions required when coping with dying patients are classified into four types. To begin with, physical care for the dying is critical. Nurses are expected to discontinue the administration of medications that are considered non-essential. This is because their administration lack any benefit and their administration is inappropriate. Similarly, nurses should do the same with other medical procedures and treatments (Ellershaw & Ward, 2003). The patient's hygiene, particularly mouth care should be upheld. Most importantly, nurses must ensure that pain of the dying individual is properly managed.

Psychological care

Additionally, nursing interventions are also grouped into psychological care. This involves enabling the client to understand his condition and to explore the various issues and conditions associated with dying (Ellershaw & Ward, 2003). The desired outcomes of psychological-based interventions are to enable the client to explicitly identify and display his feelings and thoughts regarding dying. At the same time, nurses must strive to help dying clients deal with issues associated with anxiety, particularly amongst chronically-ill patients found in hospice settings.

Social care

Nursing interventions can also fall under social care, which takes into account, the client's various relations. Some studies suggest that nurses can do more for the family members and friends than they can for their dying clients (Brenner, 2002). Social care can be fulfilled when nurses help both the family members and the client to come to terms with the impending death. Nurses should disclose all pertinent information regarding the patient's condition. The information must be truthful and also clear and precise. For instance, nurses should refrain from using terms such as 'might not recover' and instead use words such as 'dying.' This leaves little room for misinterpretation, allowing the family and friends of the patient to be better prepared for the impending death of their loved one (Ellershaw & Ward, 2003).

Spiritual care

Finally, nursing interventions adopted during the care of the dying also tend to take the form of spiritual care. This calls for nurses to acknowledge the unique cultural and religious needs of each and every client (Ellershaw & Ward, 2003). Nurses need to uphold the various traditional practices and beliefs of the client. This means that they must allow him to determine how he wants to die and how his body should be handled once he is gone.

Caring for the Grieving

One of the nursing interventions required to deal with grieving clients is to help them cope with the loss of a loved one. This requires them to identify the defining characteristics of grief, which include anger, distress, denial, sleeping disorders, panic, anxiety and many more. Nurses also need to understand that the various coping mechanisms tend to differ from one person to another. Nurses help their clients deal with their loss by creating a relation that is founded on trust. This encourages the client to express their feelings willingly (Registered Nursing, 2017).

Teaching coping strategies

Additionally, nurses will be required to teach these clients the various strategies that are used to cope with grief. This will ensure that they are well-placed to use the same tools to deal with their loss. Most importantly, the nurses can also do the same with the client's family members and friends. This will enable them to offer support to the affected individual.

Forms of grief and early warning signs

Nurses should be ready to deal with the various forms of grief experienced by individuals. For instance, some clients may manifest complicated grieving, which occurs when people fail to go through the normal stages of grieving. This may include cases of denial and prolonged grieving. In these cases, nurses should conduct assessments using the correct tools and diagnose complicated grieving. This allows the nurse to apply the relevant tools to help the client cope well. Nurses are also expected to advance support for clients experiencing anticipatory forms of grieving. This form of grief takes place before the individual has experienced an actual loss (Registered Nursing, 2017).

Making referrals

Nurses should properly diagnose this and respond accordingly as it gives them ample time to deal with his client's grief. Explaining the appropriate process of grieving and creating an open line of communication is one of the most effective ways nurses can deal with complicated forms of grief (Vera, 2013). Evidence has shown that educating clients about the normal process of death tends to help them deal with their anticipated grief. Factual information, devoid of false perceptions and hope, increases reassurance. This helps them better cope with the impending loss of their loved ones.

Continued support

Nurses are required to remain vigilant and keep a lookout for early warning signs of conditions such as depression and suicide ideation. These aspects are indicative of the client's ineffective coping (Registered Nursing, 2017). Identifying this early can help them alleviate complications such as actual suicide attempts. Questioning the client directly about his own state of mind is considered to be the most effective way of achieving this. At the same time, it is also recommended that nurses pay attention to the client's expression of feelings of hopelessness and their increased desire to end the pain (Vera, 2013).

Making referrals

Making referrals is another nursing intervention that is employed when dealing with a grieving client. This is only undertaken when there is a clear need to refer the patient to another professional or expert. For instance, a nurse that lacks the proper skills or religious beliefs should be willing to refer the grieving client to a religious expert. At the same time, referrals are also conducted to counselors, therapists, and peer support groups (Registered Nursing, 2017).

Continued support

It is also important for nurses to continue support even after the client is no longer showing symptoms of grief. Continued support can include practices such as therapeutic communication with the client. At the same time, nurses can also provide relevant information that will provide further support to their clients. This ensures that the client is better placed to deal with relapses in the future.

All things considered nurses play a critical role

All things considered, nurses play a critical role in helping clients cope with dying and grieving. When caring for those who are dying, nurses should focus on increasing their comfort as they prepare them for death. Caring for those grieving is often more complicated as nurses need to open communication lines, establish trust, and remain on the lookout for complications. Nurses are also required to make referrals when they can no longer provide the required care.


Brenner, Z. (2002). Lessons for critical care nurses on caring for the dying. Critical Care Nurse. 22(1):11-2.

Ellershaw, J. & Ward, C. (2003). Care of the dying patient: The last hours or days of life. BMJ. 326(7379):30-4.

Grief and loss: NCLEX-RN. Registered Nursing, 2017. Retrieved on 9th Aug, 2017 from

Vera, M. (2013). 4 end-of-life care (Hospice care) Nursing care plans. Nurselabs. Retrieved on 9th Aug, 2017 from

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