Coping with Death on Childrens' Wards

Coping with death is particularly difficult for everyone involved, including the nursing staff, when it is a child who dies.

Elizabeth Postle was a nurse and matron for 45 years.  She explains how to cope with death and manage grief when working on childrens' wards.  

Coping with death while working on oncology wards or in sick childrens' departments can be particularly challenging. There are emotional highs but also many low moments.

It is always very difficult for family, staff, everyone involved, when a young person dies. Accidents and illness are no respecters of age.

You are probably working with most of the sick children in the area so you end up with an unbalanced view. Try and spend some time with healthy children outside work too.

Whilst working on childrens' wards it's important to keep focused on the fact that for every child who dies there are many who respond to treatment and recover.

Coping with death on childrens' wards means staying focused

Once again care for the families and other patients takes priority. Staff need to keep focused and contain their own emotions.

Everyone tries to keep childrens' wards happy places. There are birthday parties, visits from clowns or magicians, pets to stroke. There are many activities, including some school routines and occupational therapy sessions.

However there will be roller coasters of emotions on many occasions for patients, families and staff.

The reward from this work is the satisfaction that you did the very best to keep the sick child comfortable and pain free. You supported the relatives and other children at this saddest of times.

Good team work and support for other staff is also essential in this environment. Counsellors are usually available for relatives and staff.

Illness is no respecter of age and we can only focus on some positives, the quality of the young life, the loving family they had.

It helps to remember their love of the spider man outfit or a favourite TV programme. Remember their faces laughing at the party clown or opening birthday presents.

The way to work in this environment is to be positive.

There is huge job satisfaction in any hospice setting. Patients, relatives and other staff need your empathy and ability to cope in stressful situations. It is a very worthwhile job needing a lot of inner strength at times.

Read my pages on dealing with grief and the emotions of grief. Many of the advice in those pages will be of help to you in your work and daily life.

Related Pages: 

Coping with Death for the Caring Professions

Coping with the Loss of a Child

Books on Coping with Grief

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