Patients in palliative care require efficient healthcare services to reduce stress and offer relief of symptoms and support to their loved ones. Death has always been and is, for man, a subject of deep reflection and meditation, both from the physical and psychological point of view. However, in advanced hospital settings and societies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to coexist or accept the mere idea of death, especially for new health care providers (Qaseem et al., 2008). Nursing professionals are not exempt from the influence of society and from the experience of emotions generated by death and working with dying patients in palliative care. As a result, it is quite necessary for healthcare providers including nurses to be prepared to cope with patient loss.
Increasing the comfort and well-being of the patient and his or her loved ones in the wake of a terminal disease are the main objectives of nurses working in palliative care. These professionals play a key role in patient care in their last moments to provide relief and decrease pain and other symptoms to patients who have a prognosis of life less than six months (Gerow et al., 2010). The World Health Organization defined this care as an approach that helps promote the quality of life of patients and their families in the event that they are faced with problems related to life-threatening illnesses. As a nurse, I can achieve this through relief and prevention of excess suffering by early intervention and best practices in treatment and care of patients experiencing pain and other psychological and physical problems (Gerow et al., 2010). During palliative care, the entire health team becomes involved, but nurses are the ones who have a more direct participation, since they are the ones who meet the immediate needs of these patients.
Best practices in caring for terminally ill patients in palliative care highlights the importance of nursing so that this care is performed in the best possible way. Palliative care is absolutely necessary with patients who have a terminal illness (Sepúlveda et al., 2002). This does not mean that only geriatric people should be assisted, but also people with advanced, incurable and progressive diseases like cancer. In this sense, palliative care is not only directed towards the patient, but also includes the whole environment and provides a greater degree of comfort during the course of the disease.
The quality of nursing interventions requires a deepening of the individualized care defined in the patient’s own terms, especially when the disease is persistent, irreversible and will lead to death in a given period of time. In this sense, death or its proximity, generates a broad set of attitudes and emotions of varying intensity. It is also pointed out that among the most frequent emotional responses that death involves are anxiety, fear and depression (Sepúlveda et al., 2002). In my functions as a nurse, I have a responsibility to help patients’ families to face this transition from life to death while at the same time staying strong myself. Nurses should do this to help both those who suffer from diseases in palliative care and the loved ones that surround them. A warm, supportive and reassuring attitude is expected with the patient’s family. Therefore, the concern here is to understand how prepared a nursing professional is about death and the attitudes he or she adopts before it.
In conclusion, we can understand that for every human being, witnessing a death can cause a strange, unique and very personal but infrequent experience. Nonetheless, it has been observed that for the nursing professional it is a more frequent experience since death is now institutionalized. It is thus the responsibility of nurses and other care professionals to help patients and their families recover from such experiences while at the same time coping with it themselves. This institutionalization of death makes the nursing professional have an important participation of this process, both with the dying patient and with their families.