Dealing with death as a student nurse

Kira Price-Dixon

Faculty: Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Education and Social Care
Course: BSc Adult Nursing
Category: Nursing and midwifery

1 May 2018

Death and dying is a fact of life and, as nurses, something we can all expect to deal with at some point in our career. How do we manage this as a student nurse on placement?

For many nurses, they will first experience death and dying as a student. This can be frightening, as they may not know what to say or do in the situation, and how to react. Death can be distressing, and unfortunately is not always quick and straightforward.

Firstly, it is important to note that as a student you will receive a variety of placements in different areas. In environments such as hospices and nursing homes, you're likely to have plenty of experience of dealing with death and dying. Your mentors and the other experienced staff will be able to support you, and allow you to immerse yourself in the care at your own pace.

I had a placement in a hospice and I was so nervous prior to starting, as I thought it would just be about dying. I thought it would be a dark and depressing environment – but how wrong I was. The environment was lovely and the staff were so friendly and optimistic. All the patients had a life-limiting illness, but not all came in for end of life care: we had patients who came in for respite care, to give their carers a break.

In placement area such as hospices, there is access to an extremely good counselling service. Anglia Ruskin and the Student Services Team can also provide support if you have been affected by anything you witness in placement. Sometimes, just having a conversation with your mentor or colleagues can be enough. But in other circumstances, you may be affected more deeply. I recommend taking full advantage of the services available to you, it is not weak to admit you are upset by something. Sometimes it can be difficult to switch off feelings, but we are all human.

Ultimately, being able to die in an environment where there is support 24 hours a day and highly trained staff able to assist with your needs is desirable. And for students, it is an honour to be able to participate in this care.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.