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How to Deal with the Death of a Patient

How can you cope with or make sense of the feelings you have following the death of a patient?



elderly man in bed

Dealing with the death of your first patient can be extremely hard – many, even years after qualifying, are still not sure what to think or feel.

When a patient you have been looking after dies, many emotions may come into play and it can be difficult to make sense of the situation.

Nurses are trained to cure and care for their patients, we may feel that we have failed in that when someone dies.


Patients usually develop a closer bond with Nurses and students than with any other medical staff. You spend longer with patients than doctors and they confide in you more than others.

Sometimes the death of a patient can bring up feelings of a difficult personal loss that you have experienced.

Death is a sensitive topic and many feel it difficult to speak about.

How should you deal with these emotions?

How can you, as a Nurse, cope or make sense of the feelings you have following the death of a patient who you have been looking after?

  1. Acknowledge the death – you may find it helpful to share your feelings with colleagues, friends and family.
  2. Don’t be afraid to cry – we are only human and Nurses can become overwhelmed with emotions too.
  3. Always reflect – write down why this patients death had such an impact on you. What did you do well? What could you have done better?
  4. Grieve  – it’s not just the patients family who need to grieve. As a healthcare professional you can have a special with your patients and their death can be difficult, especially if it is unexpected.
  5. Complete Last Offices – we find this gives Nurses a sense of closure. Taking the time for wash and care for them one last time is important.
  6. Share your emotions – while the wishes of the family are paramount. Sometimes family members can gain a great deal of comfort from sharing experiences and emotions with someone who has been involved with the care of their relative.

It’s important, above all else, to understand that we are only human. We are not superheros nor robots.


‘Student nurses graduate with £54k of debt, shouldn’t we pay them a wage instead?’

The Government claims students are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care”.



student nurses walking

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and vital to patient care.

While I am pleased for the thousands of students who will soon be starting their journey to become a registered nurse, it comes with a stark reminder.

In November 2015, ministers announced the NHS Student Bursary and tuition fee payment would be cut in a plan to increase the number of available student places.


Suffice to say, this hasn’t worked.

Instead, we have seen a consistent decline in the number of student nurses qualifying. Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show an overall decline in applications of 8% since 2015.

There is no debate that nurses need to be degree-level educated – but are student loans the best way to fill an ever-widing gap in our workforce?

The unseen workforce.

Student nurses are the unseen workforce and are sometimes vital to the delivery of safe, compassionate, person-centered care.

Completing over two-thousand hours of hand-on, direct clinical practice over three years – is it fair to ask them to accumulate up to £54,582 (plus 6.3% annual interest) of debt?

With a starting salary of £24,214, this is a debt the majority of nurses will never pay off.

The Government claims that because student nurses are “supernumerary” and “not contracted to provide nursing care” they need to be treated like all other higher education students.

While is it true that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) mandates that student nurses are considered ‘supernumerary’ – how realistic is this expectation? We hear stories of student nurses, trainee nursing associates and healthcare support workers being used to fill nurse staffing gaps on an almost daily basis.

A self-perpetuating cycle.

With an estimated 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS alone, health and social care services in England are stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Chronic under-investment in services has led to an increased demand on staff and subsequently affected recruitment and retention rates. Universities then fail to recruit enough nurses to meet the current demand and so the cycle continues.

The Royal College of Nursing has called on the Government to invest at least £1b per year into nursing education and come up with a long-term plan after its plan to increase numbers has failed to work.

Matching the proposed apprentice wage while student nurses are on placement would go some way towards alleviating the financial burden the government has placed on student nurses.

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A fresh start?



RCN Congress

I’m excited and I’m nervous. I qualified as a nurse just 15 months ago. I left a career in IT of “quite a few years” – I decided I needed a fresh start.

Now I’m sat on a train heading to my first ever RCN Congress. I’m a voting delegate and will be honoured to carry that responsibility for my branch.


I’m also excited to finally be meeting people that I’ve solely (or mostly) only ever connected with online.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the various debates and resolutions. Listening to the speakers will further inform my views and I might even share a thought or two myself – fortunately speaking in public does not generally worry me (I’ll be the one with the ukulele).

A brief glance back to this time last year when certain “irregularities” were noticed by some members around the pay deal and communications regarding it.

The train of events that followed uncovered a number of poor practices regarding transparency and accountability and our current council were elected to address these.

I also mentioned I am nervous.

Recently, it has become clear that further “irregularities” have occurred – and questions will be asked.

Tomorrow morning is the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual General Meeting – an opportunity for members to ask questions. An opportunity for the council to demonstrate its commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability. An opportunity for a fresh start.

I genuinely hope the answers to the questions I raise are clear and dispel the concerns many of us have.

And if they don’t? Well, that’s why I’m nervous.

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