Written by Kevin Boyle
Palliative care is caring for people who have a terminal illness (and those affected by the illness) that is no longer curable. Palliative care aims to help patients achieve the best quality of life and doesn’t seek to delay or hasten a patient’s death.
Nothing truly prepares you for your first death, and no two deaths are ever the same. Providing end of life care can be distressful and invoke feelings of guilt and helplessness within us as well as cause us to burnout. However, providing good palliative care can be one of the most rewarding experiences for student nurses. Birth and death are the two most intimate times of a person’s life, and when we manage pain, treat symptoms and provide emotional and spiritual support to our patients we are affording them a dignified and good death – which is something that everybody deserves.
It’s natural to feel upset and frightened. And we often question ourselves, wondering did we do enough, did we do things right and what could we have done differently? Reflecting on what we do is crucial for us to make sense of what actually happened. It allows us to identify the positives and the negatives and encourages us to develop professionally and emotionally.
It’s O.K if you feel out of your depth, you’re not alone. Most teams usually have a debrief which gives all members of staff a chance to reflect and share their opinions. You can also draw inspiration and support from fellow students or contact your AA or Palliative link nurse if you need any advice or help.