Palliative and end-of-life care can be challenging as patients and families find themselves in new and different circumstances. They may experience a range of mixed emotions over time, some of which may be easier to face or to talk about than others. You may connect with patients or family members and feel that it is helpful to share your own experiences. It is important not to project your own emotions or to over share though. You can be affected but should not be overwhelmed. Ask yourself why you want or need to get so involved.
Health professionals may be unsure how to help. For example, how do you respond when you experience a patient or family’s distress or anger first hand?
Engaging in reflective practice can help you better understand your own responses to particular situations. It can be helpful to do this with your manager / supervisor, another trusted colleague or someone external to the organisation. Many health services have Employee Assistance programs (EAP) that offer several free counselling sessions to staff and can be accessed via Human Resources' departments.
Health professionals can also participate in the Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (PEPA), and work alongside experienced practitioners who can provide them with strategies on how to respond to the strong emotions of patients and families and how to self-care.