Healthcare workers and grief

Our students will be entering a workforce that deals with very happy outcomes, and very sad outcomes. If a patient leaves the hospital in better condition then which they arrived, the students will feel the joy of having helped that person regain their health. But not all situations will end well. People are diagnosed with chronic conditions they never knew they had like diabetes or COPD. Sometimes people are diagnosed with a terminal condition. Sometimes people never leave the hospital or die suddenly. All of these situations will inevitably occur and the student will be in a situation where they will experience grief – their own grief, the patient’s grief, the grieving family and the grieving multi disciplinary staff.

Most hospitals do not give orientation to new staff on how to handle grief. It is our job as educators to teach our students how to handle grief when it arises in its many forms. The subculture of healthcare should give us a vast resource of people to share our grief with. But we often wait until we are in the washroom, or in the break room, or driving the car home to have our breakdown. Why when we are with so many others who can relate do we grieve in a silo? Possibly it is the culture of “I can handle it”, “this is my job” or we feel that we should be come accustomed to loss because of where we work. This could not be further from the truth. We should lean on one another and not grieve in a silo.

York University Nursing Students created this wonderful documentary on nurses grief who work on a busy perinatal unit. Their stories are poignant and very real:

This is an excellent video to show your students and begin the dialogue. After all, we can’t take care of others if we can’t take care of ourselves…


About lisagedak

I work in the field of Healthcare, and am an Instructor of Medical Termionology, Healthcare Communications and Pharmacology. you can find me on facebook at: or on twitter @voodoowitch1
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3 Responses to Healthcare workers and grief

  1. Shelly says:

    We are focusing on grief this month for our education as it is something we deal with a lot in long term care and everyone deals differently! Thank heavens for our social worker who is diligent in making sure our staff are ok and all her resources and knowledge that she is able to share with us.

  2. Loni says:

    wow, my eyes didn’t stay dry after watching this! Great video and an eye opener to the emotional effects on nurses – I have to confess my ignorance to the burden(s) they carry. And I remember choosing dental hygiene instead of a nursing career because of shift-work – sheesh, stuff like this this would have been a more compelling reason …


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