Regular exposure to death and trauma causes death anxiety in emergency nurses

Emergency nurses are highly susceptible to death anxiety and employers must recognise this and put support in place to improve the health of their staff and patient care.

Writing in Emergency Nurse, Mike Brady states that nurses working in emergency settings should be made aware of the risks of death anxiety, or thanatophobia, and given access to interventions to prevent it from affecting their physical and mental health.

The nature of their work and everyday exposure to death and other mortality cues put them at greater risk of developing this debilitating psychopathology, the authors claim.

To combat this, the author says, occupational risk-assessment tools for staff and nursing students should be developed and more research carried out to explore the incidence of death anxiety among emergency workers.

Death education programmes could help to reduce levels of death anxiety by preparing nursing students and nurses to confront their beliefs about death, and staff involved in critical incidents should be assessed against a trauma risk-management tool.

Staff involved in organising rotas should also try to rotate emergency healthcare workers so that they are not over-exposed to mortality cues.

‘While many emergency nurses and paramedics may be unaware of death anxiety, they are exposed to it in their everyday practice.

‘Healthcare providers, university staff and employers must understand and try to prevent the development of this potentially debilitating pyschopathology¬†to improve the health of their staff and the care of patients,’ the author concludes.