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Starting out: facing the unfixable

Nurses have a desire to fix and help, but what happens when you face the unfixable?

Nurses have a desire to fix and help, but what happens when you face the unfixable?

One of the hardest parts of nursing is realising how closely death walks beside you. It can be easy to forget this during our everyday work. Most of our job is fixing and repairing.

Our role is seeing what is hurting or broken in a child or young person and then trying our hardest to fix it. Sometimes it is a simple fix – a dressing on a cut or a reassuring word to an anxious patient. Sometimes your task in fixing someone is one small part of a complex series of events carried out by the rest of the team.

'We also have a duty to the family and being able to make this unbearable situation in anyway more tolerable is an honour'

Your contribution could be preparing and administering the first dose of intravenous antibiotics to a child with sepsis, or maybe you are the person who cannulates a child with abdominal pain. This is the daily business of nursing, and it is at the heart of what makes a nurse – the desire to fix and help.

How then, do we cope when we are faced with nursing a person who we are unable to fix? This is when nursing comes into its own. The desire to fix doesn’t go away, but the focus shifts. When it becomes clear the patient is going to die, our job becomes making that transition as painless and dignified as possible. We also have a duty to the family and being able to make this unbearable situation in anyway more tolerable is an honour.

Your kindness won't go unnoticed

The power of a kind word should not be underestimated. Your words will likely be forgotten, but the feeling of kindness will not.

Dealing with your first experience of a child or young person passing away will undoubtedly be one of the biggest challenges you can face. Be kind to yourself in the days that follow. Try to remember when you reflect on the situation 


About the author

Emma Cowen is a staff nurse in the children's emergency department at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Brighton

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