End of life care; Tips for the first time.

We work in a field that you will, almost certainly, have to care for a patient who is actively dying. As a student nurse or new graduate, have you gave this situation any thought? Have you identified your feelings towards these types of situations and thought about how you might react? BUT, you’re not the only one in this situation. Have you thought about the family at the bedside? The patient who knows what is going on and is scared to leave this world? I am going to break down these tips into 3 sections: What you can do for yourself as a nurse, what you can do for the patient, and what you can do for the family at the bedside.

What you can do for yourself as a Nurse caring for a dying patient.

  • If you have ever been in a similar situation with a family member in the past, think back to what you and your families fears were. Think back to what made you uncomfortable and what could have been done for you. Now, as a Nurse, you have the power to give a hand during this scary process. If you have never been in this situation, think about what you would WANT from a Nurse if you were in this situation.
  • No matter what you may feel, remember that there are people in that room who need you.

What you can do for the Patient who is actively dying.

  • Depending on the patients mental status, there are many things that can be done for the patient. One being, make them COMFORTABLE. 
  • Reposition their body every once and a while if they have been in the same position for a bit.
  • ASK THEM WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR THEM. Even though they might be out of it, they are still human and deserve to be treated like one.
  • If their lips are dry and cracked, apply vasoline. If they are cold, get them a warm blanket. Basic needs.

What you can do for the family at the bedside.

  • This is a horribly upsetting time for the family who are witnessing their family member leaving them. Make sure you include them in the care.
  • Always ask them what you can do for them. There is always something you can do.
  • Fill up some ice water and bring some cups into the room for them.
  • Bring in boxes of tissues and place them on the bedside table.
  • Ask them if they would like extra chairs for the family to sit on.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk into that room and ask them what you can do. REMEMBER, you are a Nurse and everyone in that room is in need of care at that moment. Physically, mentally, and spiritually.


Keep an eye out for the continuation of this post on, post-mortem care for the first time as a nursing student or new graduate.


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