Coping With the Loss of a Patient


You enter the room quietly to check on your patient. They’re happy to see you, and you share a smile. Neither of you says it, but as your eyes meet there’s that unspoken understanding that you both know the end is near. Although caring for a patient in their final moments is a painful and unsettling reality, it’s a special moment to share with someone. Coping with the loss of a patient is one of the many occupational hazards of being a nurse. Patient death is heartbreaking no matter where you work in the medical field, even if you work in hospice and experience it often. Although there are moments where you may want to break down and cry, your job requires you to be as strong as possible for those you are tasked with caring for. As a travel nurse, you may have to deal with death and then be on the road to your next assignment without processing the passing. For that reason, it’s important to have a method of coping with the loss of a patient.

Four Tips for Coping with the Loss of a Patient

coping with the loss of a patient

The four tips for coping with the loss of a patient as a travel nurse include acceptance, patience, healing and self-care. Learn more about them below!

1. Acceptance

First and foremost, accept the fact that patient death happens. Death is beyond your control. You can’t hang onto the what-ifs or unresolved guilt. It’s best to avoid the blame game when coping with the loss of a patient. Acceptance gets easier the longer you are a nurse, but the doubt or unrest never fully goes away for many nurses

2. Patience

Secondly, know that coping with the loss of a patient takes time. If you need to sit down and cry when you’re alone, do it. Even if you start to feel like you should be over it by now, there is no time limit on grief. Patients can leave a lasting impression on your heart and your life. Take as much time as you need to get past the loss. Be patient with yourself, and don’t let your grief frustrate you.

3. Healing

Being there for your patient, consoling their family and having some sort of ritual that you can do on your own to represent goodbye are all ways that can help you through the healing process. Also, if you’re spiritual, praying or meditating can help you heal after one of your patients passes away. Don’t forget to turn to your coworkers for comfort and support. They struggle just as much as you do when coping with the loss of a patient. Seek a shoulder from another nurse who’s been there. Depending on your situation, talking to a professional is an additional way you can seek peace. Remember that everyone copes with grief differently, so you will just have to find something that works for you.

4. Self-care

Coping with the loss of a patient is tough, and it is just one of the many difficult aspects of being a nurse. Therefore, self-care is critical in the nursing profession no matter what is causing you stress. Make sure that you leave yourself some “me time.” Don’t let your career burn you out, even if you have the passion it takes to put your whole heart into it 24/7. Taking care of yourself first is vital to your success as a nurse, which is why choosing a more flexible schedule, such as travel nursing, can help.

What are some methods you turn to when coping with the loss of a patient? Is there someone who has left a lasting impression on your life? Share your favorite patient-nurse stories with us in the comments below!

Author: Lenay Ruhl

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