“They are like family”: The emotional cost experienced by nurses when caring for haemodialysis patients

Hayes, Bronwyn, Bonner, Ann, & Douglas, Clint (2015) “They are like family”: The emotional cost experienced by nurses when caring for haemodialysis patients. In Renal Society of Australasia Conference, 15-17 June 2015, Perth, W.A. (Unpublished)



Haemodialysis (HD) nursing is characterised by frequent, intense interactions with patients over long periods of time resulting in a unique nurse-patient relationship. Due to the life-limiting nature of end-stage renal failure, nurses are likely to have repeated exposures to the death of patients with whom they have formed relationships. Repeated exposure to patient death translates into frequent grief experiences. There is scant literature on the psychological impact of patient death for nurses working in the HD setting.


To explore HD nurses experiences of patient death and coping mechanisms used.


A sequential mixed method study investigating job satisfaction, stress and burnout found that HD nurses had high levels of stress and burnout. These results were explored in more detail during 8 semi-structured interviews with HD nurses. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and subjected to thematic analysis.


Three themes were identified that highlight the stress experienced by nurses when a haemodialysis patient dies. The first theme, “quazi-family” describes the close relationship which forms between nurses and patients. The “complicated grief” theme outlines the impact of death on HD nurses, and the final theme, “remembrance” explains some of the coping mechanisms used in the grieving process.


Nurses develop individual coping mechanisms to accommodate the grief and loss experienced when a “close” patient dies. The grieving process caused by the death of patient’s needs to be recognised by nurses and nurse managers as causing psychological stress and strain.

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ID Code: 85011
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: No
Keywords: Emotional Exhaustion, Death, Haemodialysis, Nursing, Burnout, Dying, Qualitative, Nurses, Dialysis
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > NURSING (111000) > Nursing not elsewhere classified (111099)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 The Author(s)
Deposited On: 28 Jun 2015 23:30
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2015 23:31

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