Grief Management After a Nurse's Death

Judy E. Davidson, DNP, RN, MCCM, FAAN; Rachael Accardi, MA, LMFT; Courtney Sanchez, LCSW; Sidney Zisook, MD


Am Nurs Journal. 2019;14(11):30-32, 47. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Helping patients and their families deal with death and grief is a fundamental part of nursing. However, nurses don't receive training for dealing with the death of one of our own. But, of course, colleagues die, too, and these deaths can have profound effects on those left behind.

The nature of nursing (working in different departments) and the decentralization of healthcare staff (including physicians and ancillary team members) means that hundreds of colleagues beyond a deceased nurse's current unit may be affected by the death. If grief management focuses only on the nurse's current department, grieving people throughout the organization won't have the opportunity for support. The solution is a workplace bereavement management team that works in concert with unit-level leadership to share information and provide access to support systems. We've learned from direct testimony that staff and physicians view outreach as an act of caring leadership, and that even if resources aren't used, offering them is appreciated.

Understanding what to expect after a colleague's death and incorporating the bereavement team steps outlined below can help healthcare teams process their loss.