• Phenomenology;
  • qualitative methodology/qualitative research;
  • hermeneutics;
  • nurse grief;
  • care of dying patients;
  • nurse coping;
  • spirituality;
  • nurse-patient relations/nurse patient relationship


Purpose: To describe the lived experience of nurses surrounding the death of their patients.

Design: A qualitative phenomenologic approach was used for the interview and analysis framework. Methods to ensure trustworthiness and rigor were incorporated into the design.

Methods: Using semistructured interviews and phenomenologic concepts, the investigators interviewed 11 registered nurses where data was analyzed using methods of Heideggerian hermeneutical analysis and van Manen's progression of reflection, description, writing, and rewriting.

Findings: Four themes were identified: (a) Reciprocal relationship transcends professional relationship; (b) initial patient death events are formative; (c) nurses’ coping responses incorporate spiritual worldviews and caring rituals; and (d) remaining “professional” requires compartmentalizing of experience.

Conclusions: Nurses create a curtain of protection to mitigate the grieving process and allow them to continue to provide supportive nursing care.

Clinical Relevance: By developing understanding of the grieving and coping processes, nursing faculty, administrators, and leaders can provide better learning opportunities and more supportive practice environments for the professional nurse.