Dealing with Death in the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare jobs can pave the way to true professional fulfillment, but the industry also holds its fair share of downsides. Chief among these: the potential for losing valued patients. These losses are that much more painful after strong relationships have been established. Such tragedies call for self-compassion; without it, medical travelers and other staff members may struggle to provide the same quality of care for future patients. Some may even spiral into depression.

Our hearts go out to you if you've recently suffered the loss of a patient. Keep the following in mind as you begin the healing process:

Dealing with Loss in Different Ways

Loss of PatientMany approaches are available to help you deal with the loss of a special patient. No one process will work equally well for every healthcare professional. It is up to you to determine which approach is right for your unique situation.

Acceptance

What-ifs often dominate employee responses to death. Despite offering the best care possible, many wonder if they could have done more to prevent such a tragic outcome. Such feelings are understandable, but they can quickly become overwhelming. Ultimately, healthcare professionals must accept that they've made every effort to provide quality care for their patients — and that despite this, losses are bound to occur.

Time and Space

Grieving looks a little different for each person. Some staff members are extremely expressive. Others, despite caring deeply, may never show emotion within the workplace. Neither approach is 'right.'

No matter how you display grief, it is crucial that you avoid the urge to repress your feelings altogether. With time, this could lead to far greater suffering. Instead, allow yourself to fully experience whichever emotions hit you in the short-term. Take some time alone, if necessary, to process your grief.

woman-standing-on-pink-yoga-mat-meditating-373946Time is an essential element of the healing process, but personal rituals can be just as important. The right practices can help you channel your feelings in a constructive manner. What works for one medical professional will prove entirely ineffective for another, so take time to determine which activities best align with your personality. Some people, for example, look to yoga and meditation for relief, while others prefer artistic expression, reading or spending time with pets.

Seek (and Offer) Support

While time alone can be valuable as you process your grief, this should not be taken to excess. Many healthcare workers find themselves withdrawing not only from their fellow professionals, but also from new patients in an effort to avoid further heartbreak. In most cases, however, isolation only strengthens already painful emotions. 

When you're ready, consider reaching out to the friends or family members of the patient who recently passed away. Patients' social circles greatly appreciate such efforts. By providing your condolences, you can grant these individuals great peace of mind. They will take comfort in knowing that the person they lost was well cared-for in his or her final days.

In addition to reaching out to your beloved patient's circle, you may benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. A licensed therapist can help you process your grief and move forward in a healthy manner.

Patients often leave a lasting impression on medical professionals. It is by no means unusual or unacceptable to grieve their loss. No two staff members will deal with such tragedies in exactly the same manner — so don't be too worried if your version of grief looks dramatically different than that exhibited by your coworkers. A little self-care and compassion will go a long way as you honor the memories of special patients.

Triage can help you navigate both the positive and difficult aspects of the healthcare industry and medical travel. Get started with a job search or browsing our Healthcare Travel Guide.

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