How nurses grieve for children who die in their care
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How nurses grieve for children who die in their care

Paul Keenan Assistant professor in intellectual disability nursing, University of Dublin Trinity College, Ireland
Ciara Mac Dermott Clinical nurse manager, St Michael’s House, Dublin, Ireland

Nurses understand the grieving process, say Paul Keenan and Ciara Mac Dermott, but they manage their grief in different ways

Background The personal grief of nurses who care for the palliative needs of children with an intellectual disability has rarely been investigated.

Method A qualitative descriptive research approach was adopted to identify nurses’ experience of grief and how this is managed following the death of a child in their care. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with eight nurses who had cared for a child with an intellectual disability who had died. Data were analysed using the Newell and Burnard (2011) pragmatic approach to qualitative data. Ethical approval was granted by University of Dublin, Trinity College and the relevant healthcare provider.

Findings The results in relation to four of the identified themes are discussed. The findings demonstrate that nurses have a good understanding of grief, but the way they experience and manage their own grief varies.

Conclusion The study, which was carried out in the Republic of Ireland, suggests that disenfranchised grief may be experienced by nurses who have cared for children with an intellectual disability who have died. Nurses may feel helpless because of their limited experience and knowledge, their relationships with family members change after the death of a child, the opportunity to attend a child’s funeral is important for some, while many nurses will try to focus on positives after the death of a child in their care.

Learning Disability Practice. 19, 3, 16-22. doi: 10.7748/ldp.19.3.16.s20


Peer review

This article has been subject to double-blind review and has been checked using antiplagiarism software

Conflict of interest

There were no conflicts of interest in this study. Financial support was received from the Queen’s Institute of District Nurses in Ireland and the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Received: 04 January 2016

Accepted: 23 February 2016