There were 509090 deaths recorded in England and Wales for 2008 (Office for National Statistics, 2010); of these, over 56% (260000) occurred in NHS hospitals. The death of a patient is an event that most, if not all, nursing staff will encounter during their work. This experience can elicit physical, cognitive, behavioural, spiritual and emotional responses (Parkes, 1998).
Aim: The aim of this literature review is to explore how the death of patients in a hospital setting impact on nursing staff.
Method: A review of the literature was undertaken using the online databases CINAHL, Medline and PsychInfo. The search was limited to articles in the English language and those from peer-reviewed journals.
Results: Themes arising from the literature review included: the theoretical context; the emotional impact; the culture of the healthcare setting; staff's previous life experiences; and support available for healthcare staff.
Conclusions: The death of patients does have an impact on nurses. This can affect them both in their work environment and outside of work. Education around grief theory and support from others are helpful for staff in developing strategies for coping with patient deaths.