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‘Should I postpone third year to spend time with my terminally ill Dad?’


Can you advise this student nurse?

“I’m about to go into third year but have just been given the news that my Dad is terminally ill.

“I live away from home so my options are to postpone third year and move home or live away from him during what could be the last few months of his life.

“I’ve had a hard time getting through the course and really want to just plough on and get through it but I don’t want to look back in a few years and regret not spending every second with him while I could.

“I’m not looking for pity, I just want to know what other people would do: put life on hold or get my degree out of the way even though I’ll feel guilty doing so?”



Please use the comments section below to share your advice

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Readers' comments (11)

  • Thank you for this message. You should discuss this with your University personal tutor but I would say yes take a break from your studies. This is your dad and you have one chance to get it right; one chance to make a difference to him, you your family and everyone's memories. You can step off your nursing programme and return - you cant bring your dad back wishing you had been there, so this is what you need to consider. You will have developed many skills during your programme and the importance of compassionate care and basically 'just being there'. This is your chance to treat your dad to the care, compassion and time he deserves. I am really sorry for this sad news of your dads diagnosis. My thoughts are with you all.

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  • What an awful decision for you to have to make .I am sorry to hear about your dad .I can only advise from my own personal experience of when my dad was terminally ill .It will be an emotionally and physically draining time for you and hard for you to focus on your 3rd year .I would postpone and spend all the time you can together .The course you can get back, time and memories you cannot ! Again this is my own personal view and you must do what you feel is best for you and I am sure your dad will be proud whatever decision you make .Take care

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  • Dear Student Nurse, my thoughts are with you and your family... As a nurse educator I will tell you that what you will learn through the journey with your father will underpin your nursing practice with a strong foundation of knowledge and empathy for others. I suspect that over the last two years you have learned to think as a nurse, critically and compassionately. These abilities will be evident as you support your father and allow others to support you. I wish you strength in the days ahead....

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  • I have no doubts as to what you should do. Spend this precious time with your Dad. You cannot get it back again. Your Nursing career will give you vast experience and knowledge to help others but this is special time for you and your dad and you should welcome it with open arms. It is priceless. If you decide otherwise you will regret it and there is no turning the clock back. You will also be able to use your experience to help others and understand the devastation of losing a loved one.

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  • Hello, I'm sorry to hear the situation you find yourself in. I wanted to respond as my experience was different from the posters so far and would be reluctant to advise any kind of action on that basis. I can share something of the experience though.
    I was in the middle of a course as well but my relationship with my parent was very difficult. That said, I deliberately thought through what would I want to look back on, what memory did I want. What did I not want to regret. What did I want to give a chance to resolving if possible. These may not be relevant for you.
    As it turned out, and only with hindsight, I made some good decisions and some that didn't work for various reasons. From where I am now I would say there's no absolute right or wrong answers. What in the end seems important is the preciousness of time and opportunity. It's going to be difficult, tricky, but getting support from your tutors is very useful, talking to your family if possible is important and having support from friends/partners is important. You may all come to the decision to do your third year, but the decision you make will be the most right for you and your family.
    Good luck and I wish you well.

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  • michael stone

    I'm not a nurse, but I am old enough for both of my parents to have died.

    All I can say, is that people die, but memories of deaths live on: and you can't go back and correct any 'mistakes' you feel guilty about later.

    So, I think the other posters are giving you good advice - talk to your tutors and to your family.

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  • Like the others I am so sorry you are going through this. I had an enforced 6 month break when I was about to begin my third year student nurse course 25 years ago when I became unexpectedly pregnant. This is obviously not in the league of what is happening to you, but the implications are the same. My tutor at the time tried to have me kicked off the course regardless of the fact that my husband to be was told by medics it was unlikely he could have children due to a medical condition so was not a conscious decision. Thankfully his manager over ruled him and a compromise was reached that I stayed registered on the course, missed the time to give birth and recover but had guidance and continued to study at home, took the exams at the same time as the others, passed, and then did the missed part of the course placements retrospectively and registered when that was complete. I don't know if something like this could be arranged for you depending on the time scale involved or even if you would want to? Have you spoken to your father about this if he is able? It may depend on the type of relationship you have with him as to what you decide. If you KNOW you would have regrets if you don't postpone then I would say do so as you can't get that back. You have the rest of your life to catch up but you only have one father. However, I agree that there is no right or wrong answer. Good luck.

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  • Helena King

    I myself lost my dad. And I spent the last year of his life doing other things. I had more notice than most and more time to say goodbye than most children can have the privilege of. It is to date my biggest regret I did not spend that time with him, I have not idea what he did on a daily basis or what comforted him when he was in pain. If I could turn back the clock I would do. I will, as will you, look after hundreds of clients over the years but I believe that having the opportunity to use those nursing skills on your family will be the most valuable and rewarding experience that any placement could not offer. Love to your family at this time.

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  • ‘Should I postpone third year to spend time with my terminally ill Dad?’


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  • I am sorry to hear about your Dad. I can only say what I feel and that is that you will never get back the last few months of your dads life, whereas the course will wait for you. You will not lose your place, you will finish the course later, but to me and I'm sure you agree, spending the precious time with your father is much more important than when you qualify as a nurse. You have the rest of your life to pursue your career and only a short time to enjoy your Dad. Go with your heart, I think you already knew the answer before you wrote this post.

    Best Wishes

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