Critical Care Nurses’ Experiences With Death and Dying: A South African Perspective

  •  Vasanthrie Naidoo    
  •  Maureen Nokuthula Sibiya    


The aim of this study was to explore experiences of South African critical care nurses regarding grief, death and dying in a critical care environment. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews and was analyzed using Giorgi’s thematic data analysis method. Available literature suggests that critical care nurses have varied experiences in relation to their experiences in relation to end-of -life patient care. However, few studies have examined the involvement of South African intensive care nurses’ in caring for the dying patient, their grief, their reactions to death in the workplace and the extent to which their nursing practice is based on shared beliefs, experiences and attitudes. Findings from this study revealed many predisposing factors and circumstantial occurrences shaping both, the nature of care of the dying and subsequent grief that, affected the nurse. Repeated exposure to grief, leads to occupational stress and burn out, causing emotional disengagement from caring for the dying, which ultimately affect the quality of care rendered for both the dying patient and their family. Issues, such as communication, multicultural diversity, education and coping mechanisms are essential in nursing education and practice and nurses caring for the critically ill or dying patient, need to have support networks and strategies put in place, not only to assist in providing care, but also for their own emotional support and well-being.

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