END OF LIFE NURSING: LIFE LESSONS FROM DYING PATIENTS | 5 Min Reading Time

END OF LIFE NURSING: LIFE LESSONS FROM THE DYING

Ayinla Daniel


“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Mark Twain

End of life nursing is a very unique and sensitive aspect of nursing practice. It is one that requires the nurses who decide to take on the challenge of nursing dying patients to understand the emotional requirements required for this type of Nursing Business.

The Physician does not really have much to do when it comes to the end of life care [did I just say that?]. It is the Nurse who stands by the patient until they breathe their last. The Nurse creates a unique kind of bond with the dying, a compulsory one, that should be therapeutic in nature and not too rigid in practice – one that requires more hearts than just hands.

The process of dying is still a mystery to medical science [every patient brings a different and unique experience to the party]. There’s a whole lot we have not been able to understand. I have been around dying patients, and I know how I feel after the patient finally gives up the ghost. We are hardened by these constant exposures to death, and this has affected many of us, we do not bother to learn anymore, because we are used to it.

I have sat down, and I have given my heart to much reasoning, trying to see what there is to learn from dying patients, especially as it concerns registered nurses. Nursing practice goes beyond what many of us do. It is unique, special, and mysterious. You are meant to be with the sick and the dying at all times, and this aspect is one of the elements that make clinical nursing practice a bit tough for many folks who desire to be in the nursing profession. In this blog post, I share very personal lessons that I have learned from my interaction with dying patients.

I will not be able to present all my thoughts in one blog post, I will try to finish it up in another one.


Palliative care or Hospice Nursing, as it is popularly called, is the care that is giving to the terminally ill patient. Cancer is the number one culprit, and more patients enter the category of terminally ill through the dark gates of cancer. There’s so much emotion at play when you are taking care of a terminally ill patient. You can feel it ooze from both the patient and the relatives. And the nurse needs more than just the knowledge of medications and procedures to manage situations like this.

Creating an environment of hygge is a very vital therapeutic goal that the medical and nursing team must pursue by all means. Dying should be as painless, [both physically and emotionally] as possible. Even during dying, comfort for the patient is a top priority. You don’t abandon the dying for any reason, that’s why the Nurse is the most important healthcare professional in this scenario.

  • You Are Suddenly Aware of Your Own Temporal Life…

Yes, I get that feeling all the time when I take care of the dying. Your mind suddenly begins to think about your own end, which is definitely going to come. And this feeling should invoke in you a reverence for life itself. For me, this feeling inspires me to do more with the limited time that I have before me. I am energized, refreshed and I am more committed to my passions, visions, and goals in life. Do you know what I am doing? I am channeling what looks, feels, and sounds like negative vibes into positive energy for my own good.

  • You Have More Respect For The Patient…

Their courage, boldness, and bravery seem to rub off on you. Respect for their strengths is kindled, as you bid them farewell. Facing death is the last challenge of humanity. There are stages of dying. Let us skip the first stages and race down quickly to the last – when the patient finally accepts their fate, that death is inevitable.

Do you know how much energy is needed to face death? Only nurses know better. Yes, I will say it again, “Only nurses know better.” I have cared for patients whose deaths lead me to shed tears [I am not the emotional type], their deaths touched a part of my soul. Yes, we are professionals, and we must not allow our emotions to get the best parts of us, but we are human beings, we are not made from stone. Tell the cook making his foods not to enjoy the aroma of what he creates. These are the kind of aromas that we are exposed to in Nursing practice – a dying patient, one you wished you could help, but you can’t just do anything about it.

Approaching the gates of death with infinite gusto. This should be the sermon to the dying. Oh yes, I believe in miracles, I am a devout believer who has faith in the resurrection power of my Lord Jesus Christ, and I am not one drop ashamed to include the teachings of my faith in my writing. While I believe in miracles, I also do not discard the tidings brought to us by reality.

We take care of the dying with all the weapons that are available in our arsenal. Dying is undeniably part of life – the end of it, and it’s a very important aspect of human life, it is very important. The beginning is also as important as the end.

  • Each Dying Patient Has A Unique Story…

The way you dispense your nursing care is going to be special if you understand that every human being that you are going to take care of has a unique story. The same truth goes for those who are dying. Though they are dying, they are still unique. They are not useless and are never going to be useless.

Death does not make them useless. They are still alive, in the memories, in the impact that they have created while they were still hale & hearty, in the hearts of the loved ones that they are leaving behind. If you strive to know their unique stories, you will be amazed at how much adventure you will experience. It’s amazing, and I mean it.

Strive to know the story of your patient. Be genuine in your inquiry. Dying does not make them less human, they are still as humanly human as the little one who was born today. It’s just that their time has come.

Depression sets in, but at times, they tend to suddenly race through the lane of memories, and if you are around them at that moment, be interested; it’s a difficult business, a tough one, but you were built for it.

  • Be Careful With The Way You Handle Information

Interacting with patients has many rules and professional restrictions, especially if they are terminally ill. You must be extremely careful with the way you handle information.

I had a very nasty experience with handling very sensitive information. I wouldn’t want you to suffer the way I did, so I am advising you to be very careful when handling information about the dying. Always try to either refer those seeking information about “The Dying” to the most senior and qualified healthcare practitioner around or consult with the team on the degree, kind, and type of information that can be given out to those seeking information – even very close relatives should be treated carefully when making certain information available, believe me.

Let me stop here for now, in the next part of this article, I will write in-depth. There are still a lot of things I will really love to let you know.


Featured Image Credit: Mat Redding | Unsplash


Latest from the Blog

INSPIRE WITH OMOLERE. T | JANUARY EDITION |

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” – Peter Drucker


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s