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PLACEMENT EXPERIENCES

How do I deal with end of life care as a student nurse?

Facing end of life care on my first placement, with limited experience was a challenge. I found myself questioning myself, my experience and my student nurse title.

Amber Flounders_SNT

Amber Flounders is in her first year studying Adult branch nursing at Keele University

“Am I really knowledgeable enough to deal with such a sensitive subject, and am I emotionally prepared to cope with the loss of a patient?”

The patient and relatives were unaware of my lack of experience in this area. They just saw a uniform and began asking questions and confiding in me their thoughts and emotions. I felt overwhelmed at first not knowing the right thing to say, and worried that I would give the family false hope.

My mentor was supportive and answered all the family’s questions. Watching my mentor talk to these relatives with empathy and ease was inspiring. She was informative, and told the family the truth, yet spoke with comforting words. She ensured that every little detail of care was person-centred, right down to playing the patient’s favourite music at night and changing the lighting to a more soothing colour.

“Am I really knowledgeable enough to deal with such a sensitive subject, and am I emotionally prepared to cope with the loss of a patient?”

She provided the compassionate nursing that tabloids today say is not being delivered.

She often worked through her lunch or after work to make sure the patient’s needs were met. For me, it was hard to believe that this nurse could continue to deliver care to her best ability while working under such distressing situations.

Was she not scared? Did she not feel for this patient?

Asking my mentor how she copes was interesting. She told me that although she is touched by patients and their individual stories she finds it comforting to know she has delivered the best care that she possibly could.

“But what about when the patient dies, how do you tell the family?” I asked.

She looked at me for a second and questioned herself before replying: “Every time is different, every patient and every family. It never becomes easy to tell somebody their loved one has passed away but one day you will be experienced enough as a nurse to know that you can do everything you can to be there for the family.”

As a first year student nurse, being experienced enough to confidently comfort patients and families at end of life feels a long way off. But one day, that could be me looking after a patient with terminal illness. Although I find it difficult to imagine being experienced enough to deal with such traumatic situations, I am comforted knowing my journey to becoming a nurse will set me up for many of life’s challenges.  

“One day, that could be me looking after a patient with terminal illness”

Being exposed to these situations is helping me become a more empathetic nurse. I’m learning that even though medicine is developing rapidly, there will always be patients along the way who cannot be saved.

I hope that when I qualify I can be like my mentor - thinking of all the little things that matter to the patient and delivering the best care I can.

This experience has helped me realise that end of life care isn’t anything to be afraid of, even as a first year student.

 

Amber Flounders is in her first year studying Adult branch nursing at Keele University

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