Reflections on Practice: Self-care is a MUST for health care providers caring for the dying

Kalliopi Stilos, Lesia Wynnychuk


Death is a daily experience for us, as palliative care providers. Roughly, half of the patients we care for die of complications from their cancer and the remainder die from non-malignant events such as strokes or progressive disease such as dementia. There is no escaping death. Some of our encounters with these patients are brief (Stilos, Lilien et al., 2016), as they die within 72 hours of admission. Often we develop therapeutic relationships with patients and we learn about their relationships, their family and loved ones, their jobs-and many times their dream jobs-their hobbies, plans, hopes and dreams for their future. As they approach the end of their lives, they experience loss, and their loved ones begin to grieve. Their losses during our time together become our losses. And when we witness their death, we too experience grief. The recurring loss of life is something we sit with day after day.

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