Bowlby J. Attachment theory and its therapeutic implications. Adolesc Psychiatry. 1978; 6:5-33

Nicol J, Nyatanga B. Palliative and end of life care in nursing, 2nd edn. London: Sage; 2017

Stroebe M, Schut H. The dual process model of coping in bereavement: rationale and description. Death Stud. 1999; 23:(3)197-224

When death is part of us: supporting community nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic

02 March 2021
Volume 26 · Issue 3

Community nurses working in palliative care encounter death as part of their work. With the COVID-19 pandemic, community nurses are exposed to more deaths than before, and this can be argued to have an adverse impact on their own wellbeing and ability to continue providing such care. Death and dying episodes among patients tend to have an negative impact on palliative care professionals (Nicol and Nyatanga, 2017). By extension, the reactions and experiences of relatives and those deemed important to the patient are also witnessed by community nurses, with a negative impact on their caring. For families and close friends, grief tends to follow the knowledge of the loss (whether it be impending or has happened), and community nurses are ever present to support them. The argument here is that the same health professionals might experience a sense of loss as well, and, therefore, grieving would only be natural. Nicol and Nyatanga (2017) explained how health professionals forge caring relationships with their patients, and through this, they become emotionally attached to form affectionate bonds (Bowlby, 1987). The advent of death breaks this attachment and results in feelings of grief. Most literature on loss, including Stroebe and Schut (1999) and Bowlby (1987), claims that affectionate bonds are formed as people develop relationships with each other. The claim is that, the closer or stronger the relationship, the deeper are the emotional affectionate bonds between people. It also translates that, when death occurs to one person in the relationship, those left behind (the bereaved) experience great pain. The logical point from this is that health professionals often develop relationships with their patients and, therefore, experience loss and grief; they also enter into bereavement following the death of their patients. In fact, they might have multiple bereavement episodes and concurrently, too, as they are exposed to more deaths, some resulting from COVID-19.

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