Nurses’ experiences, coping and support in the death of a child in the emergency department: A qualitative descriptive study

Kaori Shimoinaba, Lisa McKenna, Beverly Copnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A child's death in the Emergency Department (ED) is usually unexpected and traumatic. Understanding nurses’ experiences encountering such death is crucial in determining how they cope to provide quality nursing care to dying children and their families. Purpose: To report ED nurses’ experiences with children's death, coping strategies and support needs. Procedures: A qualitative descriptive design. Twenty-four registered nurses who had cared for a child who died in the ED took part in semi-structured interviews. Interviews were audiorecorded, and analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings: Three themes were generated: ‘nature of emergency department work’, ‘working with families’ and ‘coping and support’. This paper reports on the theme ‘coping and support’. Although children's deaths were traumatizing and affected nurses personally and professionally, constant time pressure allowed limited reflection time. Common individual coping mechanisms used by participants included external strategies through support from other staff members including peer-support and informal supervision, and internal strategies through personal coping strategies. Participants expressed need for greater support and education/training to effectively deal with pediatric death, children's families, and their own grief. Conclusions: Children's deaths and nature of ED care affected nurses. Adequate support and deathrelated education were urged by participants to promote high-quality care provision.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101102
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Emergency Nursing
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Coping
  • Death
  • Emergency department
  • Pediatrics
  • Qualitative research
  • Registered nurses

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