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Bereavement, Burnout, Compartmentalization, Compassion fatigue, Coping, Dual process model for bereavement (DPM), Grief, Secondary traumatic stress



  1. Omran, Taline MSN, RN
  2. (Browning) Callis, Annette M. PhD, MSN, RN, CNS


Background/Introduction: Bereavement and grief in critical care nurses remain an understudied phenomenon. As a way of self-protection, nurses may compartmentalize their own feelings and need assistance and support in processing feelings of bereavement. Nurses spend much of their time caring for patients and their family members, while guiding them through the dying process; however, they may not take adequate time to address their own bereavement needs.


Objective/Aims: The aims of this study were to explore the bereavement needs of critical care nurses after experiencing the expected or unexpected death of a patient and, from their lived experiences, gain insight as to how nurses perceive, process, and cope with the death of a patient.


Methodology: A qualitative, phenomenological focus group was conducted with critical care nurses (N = 10) after gaining institutional review board approval. The group discussion was audio-recorded and transcribed. Content analysis was performed to identify common themes.


Results: Seven themes emerged: (a) emotional distress, leading to compassion fatigue, burnout, and moral distress, (b) empathy, (c) resurfacing personal loss leading to secondary traumatic stress in the workplace, (d) unrealistic expectations placed on the nurse, (e) detachment leading to compartmentalization, (f) lack of formal education, and (g) self-care and available resources.


Discussion/Conclusion: More education for nurses in undergraduate and continuing education programs is needed to assist nurses in the bereavement process. More interventional studies are needed to explore programs of nurses' self-care both in the workplace and in nurses' personal lives to more effectively support their emotional needs.