The Role of Psychiatric Nurses in Caring Terminally Ill Patients

This paper will reflect on the palliative psychiatric nursing care for terminally ill patients, families and caregivers. As Clark (2003) stated this is an emerging role for nurses and that the support for the acute mental health needs of patients, families and caregivers, going through the grieving process of terminal illness are not being met. The role of the psychiatrist in terminal care is limited in the availability of these services within the health care system (Clark, 2003).

Nurses need to be aware of the psychiatric issues involved with terminally ill conditions and be educated on these. Chochinov (cited in Clark 2003), stated that the conditions frequently occurring in patients who are dying with a terminal illness are anxiety, depression and delirium and the need to treat patients, families and caregivers. Clinical practice in the aged care facility made me aware of the different challenges nurses are faced with in patients with a terminal illness that had depression, anxiety and delirium.

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On reflection, whilst caring for these patients I implemented compassion, care, listening and ways to help them think of other things besides their illness. Having done some mental health studies may help me to realize strategies to put into practice and to identify any mental health issues, if I come across terminally ill patients in my nursing career. Travelbee’s theory the “Human-to-Human Relationship” explains the process through which the function of nursing are fulfilled. The basic concepts of this theory are suffering, meaning, nursing and hope.

Purposes of the theory are assistance, guide for assessment, intervention and evaluation with the added benefit of theory improving the nursing practice. The most important concept presented in the article was the raising of awareness amongst psychiatric nurses drawing on their unique education and experience in leading the provision of palliative care. Another point was to offer continuing education to nurses, in other practice areas, courses on recognizing and treating general mental health conditions.

In conclusion, I agree with Clark (2003), that psychiatric nurses are needed in palliative care settings and that courses for nurses should be implemented to treat patients with terminal illnesses, and ways to become aware of any mental health issues. Families and caregivers involved in the palliative care for these terminally ill patients should be made aware of the mental health issues that can occur. Information for caregivers and families on strategies they can use to cope with these mental health issues whilst caring for these patients or family members.



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