Dugas, Joan

Advisor Department

Nursing, College of




Nurse; Death; Grief; Critical Care; Hospice

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License


The loss of a loved one affects family and friends but also the nurses and health care providers. At the time of death, nurses are at the bedside providing comfort and words of support. But who is there to support the nurses when the patient dies? The objective of this research project is to identify positive coping mechanisms that nurses can use on a daily basis through an extensive analysis of the literature and individual nurse interviews.

Unfortunately, patient death may be more common for nurses who work on Intensive Care Units (ICU) and Hospice agencies. With the daily requirements of this profession, nurses must cope following sudden and expected patient death. The literature review revealed several coping mechanisms that demonstrated to be effective in assisting nurses cope with the death of a patient. These coping mechanisms include: establishing a “curtain of protection”, increasing a nurse’s experience of providing care to dying patients, recognizing one’s attitudes toward death, and increasing education and knowledge related to the dying process. These methods were then supported with interviews conducted with two ICU and two Hospice nurses. Both specialties recognized the importance of fellow nurse support following a patient’s death.

With education, on-site training, support from fellow nurses, and resources, nurses have been able to care for dying patients while maintaining their own physical and mental health. It is necessary to prepare and provide ongoing education and support for nurses to utilize positive coping mechanisms following patient death.