Background Patients receiving palliative care experience psychological distress towards the end stage of their life and though some cope effectively, some do not. The psychological needs of these patients are sometimes overlooked by healthcare provider because physical symptoms such as pain, vomiting and respiratory distress are prioritised. Nurses are well positioned to recognise psychological distress and help patients manage it leading to a better experience at the end of life.
Method Semi-structured interviews were conducted with registered nurses working in hospital (n=6) and hospice (n=29) settings. The roles and experiences of nurses when meeting the psychological needs of patients receiving palliative care were explored. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
Result Four themes were generated after analysis of the data collected. These are: assessing, observing, intuition and experience; trust and managing uncertainties; little things that have great impacts; maintaining professionalism when grieving.
Conclusion Nurses are well placed to detect, assess and manage psychological problems experienced by patients receiving palliative care, with frequent contact being a key factor. Nurses are faced with emotional stress when caring for patients at the end of life and coping mechanisms and strategies are needed to enable them to continue to function well as a compassionate carer.
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