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'We must talk about death', say nurses

Nurses have revealed how their hospitals are improving end of life care services ahead of the annual Dying Matters awareness week.

Talking about death is important, but too often avoided, say nurses working in end of life care and bereavement services

The issue is under the spotlight as part of next week's Dying Matters awareness week, which encourages patients and health staff to have open and honest conversations about death.

Important conversations

Talking about dying wont make it happen,' said Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust (NLG) community Macmillan end of life lead nurse Wendy Swan.

Its one of the only things we all have in common, regardless of age, gender, race, or religion: we will all die someday. But its often something we dont want to talk about.

Throughout the week, NLG

Talking about death is important, but too often avoided, say nurses working in end of life care and bereavement services


Nurses working in end of life care are concerned people are not talking about death enough, in the run
up to Dying Matters awareness week. Picture: iStock

The issue is under the spotlight as part of next week's Dying Matters awareness week, which encourages patients and health staff to have open and honest conversations about death.

Important conversations

‘Talking about dying won’t make it happen,' said Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust (NLG) community Macmillan end of life lead nurse Wendy Swan.

‘It’s one of the only things we all have in common, regardless of age, gender, race, or religion: we will all die someday. But it’s often something we don’t want to talk about.’

Throughout the week, NLG trust staff will be advising people in their area to:

  • Write a will.
  • Record your wishes for your funeral.
  • Plan your future care and support.
  • Consider registering as an organ donor.
  • Tell your loved ones your wishes.

Ms Swan added: ‘Talking about dying may not be easy, but it could be one of the most important conversations you will ever have.’

Berveament suite

West Cumberland Hospital, in Whitehaven, recently opened a new bereavement suite and chapel, which will feature two specialist nurses on its team of staff.

Michelle Towers is already in post and the second bereavement nurse will join the team in due course. Together they will train staff and help patients’ families deal with the loss of a loved one.

Ms Towers said: ‘Helping families through one of the most difficult times of their lives is challenging, but also deeply rewarding.

‘We can’t avoid death but we can help people come to terms with their loved ones dying and help in the grieving process.’

End of life 'champions'

At Guy’s and St Thomas’ 60 end of life care champions have been appointed to encourage colleagues to speak openly about death and bereavement.

As well as nurses, those chosen include doctors, housekeepers, porters and members of the spiritual care team who all attend monthly meetings to share best practice.

The project has been created by Maggie Kennedy, an end of life care clinical nurse specialist.

Ms Kennedy said: ‘When a patient is coming towards the end of their life this can affect a whole range of staff who are in contact with the patient – nurses, doctors, admin staff, porters.

‘It's important to acknowledge the role these staff play in end of life care and ensure they feel supported.’

King’s College London nursing student Grace Fowler-Roughton is currently on placement at Guy's and St Thomas’ and has been recruiting fellow students to the scheme.

She said: ‘By being better prepared for issues around end of life care and listening to the experiences of other staff, we will become better nurses.’


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