Editorial

This is what ‘caring for the carers’ looks like

Bereavement affects each of us differently, and few of us can anticipate how we will react when we lose a loved one. We can also never be sure how those around us will be affected, especially younger children experiencing death for the first time. This week’s Nursing Standard features a nurse who has developed a service that offers holistic care in the aftermath of death and should serve as a blueprint for commissioners to follow.

Bereavement affects each of us differently, and few of us can anticipate how we will react when we lose a loved one. We can also never be sure how those around us will be affected, especially younger children experiencing death for the first time. This week’s Nursing Standard features a nurse who has developed a service that offers holistic care in the aftermath of death and should serve as a blueprint for commissioners to follow.

Angela McDonald was drawn to this kind of care in part because she lost her own brother when she was just four years old. Now she helps parents come to terms with their own grief, while also helping their children find answers to difficult questions about why their relative or friend has died and what will happen next.

She helps parents come to terms with their grief, and their children find answers

Her work impressed the judges of the RCNi Nurse Awards, which this year included a category for nurses who provide exceptional support to carers, a category Ms McDonald won. The award came about because its sponsor, NHS England, is conscious that carers’ contribution to health care is vitally important but rarely recognised. So it has been seeking examples of nursing staff who have improved the lives of carers.

Ms McDonald’s service is based at the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, where she runs workshops for other nurses who find themselves in the role of bereavement counsellor to grieving families and friends. Nursing students, medical consultants and social workers have all benefited from the training.

Category judge Jen Kenward, experience of care lead for community, primary and integrated care at NHS England, says Ms McDonald’s work stood out because it demonstrates a whole-family approach to supporting carers. ‘When you meet her, you feel this is a nurse with exceptional knowledge – someone you can have confidence in and would welcome into your home.’ That is a testimony that any nurse would love to receive.

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