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Reflecting on caring and death anxiety during the pandemic

02 March 2022
Volume 27 · Issue 3

Palliative care can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is a privilege to be part of someone's intimate dying experience; however, one must also manage patients' existential anxieties and try to support them to achieve the best death possible. In doing so, it can be argued that community nurses are being exposed themselves to the possibility and reality of their own death, which can often invoke death anxiety (Nyatanga and Nyatanga, 2011). During the COVID-19 pandemic, exposure to death took a different turn in terms of huge numbers of deaths being witnessed and the care being provided, with physical distancing and protective personal equipment (PPE) in place and often without any input from a patient's family and friends. While such care was necessary to control the spread of the virus and save lives, it also created an unfortunate disconnect with usual palliative care practice of being close to patients and their loved ones, and inadvertently made care somewhat impersonal. Community nurses and their employers would have made an effort to discover the best ways to support staff experiencing loneliness and suffering while trying to help patients to achieve some dignity in death. While every healthcare professional has made the delivery of the best care possible their focus during the duration of the pandemic, such constant exposure to death and dying episodes might have quietly created an environment for death anxiety to fester among community nurses.

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