'On the edge of life': caring for the dying and the dead

Draper, Jan and Jones, Kerry (2018). 'On the edge of life': caring for the dying and the dead. In: Death & Culture II, 6-7 Sep 2018, University of York.


End of life care is high on the policy and political agenda (DH 2006) and in interdisciplinary academic and practice debates (Higginson, 2016). Healthcare policy over the last 10 years has consistently highlighted deficiencies in the quality of end of life health care and identified a range of strategies - across disciplines and settings to improve the experience of care for patients and their families (NP&EoLCP, 2015). Nurses are at the forefront of this care, caring for dying patients, 'managing' the dead body, and dealing with the corporeal, emotional and relational dimensions of death. Whilst nurses are 'taught' the theory of and practice of end of life care, we know little about their prior experiences of death, dying and the corpse and how these shape their subsequent professional engagement and practice. This paper presents the findings of a scoping review to explore nurses first encounters with, reactions to, dying, death and mortality, and how these formative experiences shaped their understandings and influenced their practice, We suggest implications for research, practice and education and, in particular, how giving legitimate space to surface such experiences might enrich our teaching of death and dying.

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