Deakin University

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“Time and life is fragile”: An integrative review of nurses’ experiences after patient death in adult critical care

journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-13, 04:43 authored by Melissa BloomerMelissa Bloomer, K Ranse, L Adams, Laura BrooksLaura Brooks, A Coventry
Introduction: Providing bereavement support and care to families is an aspect of critical care nursing practice that can be rewarding, yet emotionally and psychologically challenging. Whilst significant research has focused on end-of-life care in critical care, less is known about nurses’ experiences after patient death. Aim: The aim of this study was to synthesise research evidence on the experience of registered nurses after patient death in adult critical care. Design: A structured integrative review of the empirical literature was undertaken. A combination of keywords, synonyms, and Medical Subject Headings were used across the Cumulative Index Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) Complete, Ovid Medline, PsycInfo, Embase, and Emcare databases. Records were independently assessed against inclusion and exclusion criteria. A process of forward and backward chaining was used to identify additional papers. All papers were assessed for quality. Narrative synthesis was used to analyse and present the findings. Results: From the 4643 records eligible for screening, 36 papers reporting 35 studies were included in this review, representing the voices of 1687 nurses from more than 20 countries. Narrative synthesis revealed three themes: (i) postmortem care, which encompassed demonstrating respect and dignity for the deceased, preparation of the deceased, and the concurrent death rituals performed by nurses; (ii) critical care nurses' support of bereaved families, including families of potential organ donors and the system pressures that impeded family support; and (iii) nurses’ emotional response to patient death including coping mechanisms. Conclusions: Whilst a focus on the provision of high-quality end-of-life care should always remain a priority in critical care nursing, recognising the importance of after-death care for the patient, family and self is equally important. Acknowledging their experience, access to formal education and experiential learning and formal and informal supports to aid self-care are imperative.



Australian Critical Care










Elsevier BV