The challenges of caring for families of the terminally ill: nurses' lived experience
Namasivayam, P and Orb, A and O'Connor, M, The challenges of caring for families of the terminally ill: nurses' lived experience, Contemporary Nurse, 19, (1-2) pp. 169-180. ISSN 1037-6178 (2005) [Refereed Article]
Caring for families of the terminally ill is an important aspect of nursing care as nurses are considered the main health care professionals who are closest to families. This paper describes the experience of seven registered nurses caring for families of the terminally ill in Western Australia. Five of the nurses worked in an acute area at a public hospital; the other two nurses worked at long-term care settings at a private hospital. Descriptive phenomenology as described by Husserl (1970) was used to describe and explore nurses' lived experience. Data were collected through in depth interviews and analysed using the Colaizzi method. Four major themes are reported in this paper: 1) walking a journey together; 2) dealing with intense emotions; 3) working as a team; and 4) balancing the dimension of care. Nurses' lived experiences of caring for families of terminally ill patients revealed that nurses are confronted by families' emotions and at the same time needed to manage their own emotions. The findings further indicated that nurses play a significant role in caring for families of the terminally ill. The family's fear of losing their loved ones often resulted in conflicts, which required extra time from nurses. Moreover, some of the major barriers identified were time constraints and excessive workloads. Finally, some implications of the findings for registered nurses are discussed.