Thousands of children lose their lives every year to life-threatening conditions. In the United States, 80% of children who die, do so in paediatric intensive care units (PICU). This can often lead to healthcare workers feeling overwhelmed, particularly PICU nurses. Many of these nurses have received little or no formal training in palliative care and may feel unprepared to care for these children. Caring for these children may cause feelings of helplessness, anger, and stress and ultimately affect the quality of care the nurses provide.
Despite research around nurses providing palliative care for children there has been little research conducted to examine this phenomenon from the perspective of nurses in PICU. The American Journal of Critical Care (AJCC) recently published the results of a study describing and interpreting the experiences of nurses in PICU who provide palliative care to children with life-threatening conditions and their families.
The study was conducted with 12 PICU nurses in the north-eastern United States. The study covered the following sub-themes:
- The emotional impact of the dying child
- The emotional impact of the child’s death
- Concurrent grieving
- Creating a peaceful ending
- Parental burden of care
- Maintaining hope for the family
- Unclear communication by physicians
- Need to hear the voice of the child
- Remaining respectful of parental wishes
- Collegial camaraderie and support
- Personal support
The study reveals that although PICU nurses are in a key position to advocate for and deliver quality children’s palliative care, it is still a complex task. The findings suggest a need for research into strategies to support nurses personal grieving, coping abilities and decreasing work related stress. To read this full study, click here.