Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Awareness of mental well-being for nurses working in palliative care

Olajumoke Isaiah 28 Sep 2023

This blog raises awareness of the importance of promoting mental well-being, which is essential given the increase in work pressures in healthcare systems, high levels of nursing shortage and the impact on patient care and outcomes.

In the demanding world of healthcare, nurses are the backbone, supporting patients and other healthcare colleagues. My journey as a palliative care nurse has taught me that caring for others begins with caring for oneself. My daily routine involves experiences that most people encounter only a few times. Facing death, grieving families, and complex ethical decisions are part and parcel of my job. Even though my role can be challenging and demanding, my experience has been a constant learning process filled with emotions, challenges, and incredible rewards.

In my experience, nurses working in palliative care can face unique stressors that can be overwhelming and significantly impact their mental health. These stressors include constant exposure to death and grief, compassion fatigue, ethical dilemmas, and high expectations for support from patients, families, carers, and other healthcare professionals. To help address these challenges, I would like to share some strategies to enhance mental well-being and promote a supportive work environment. 

These include:

  • Regular clinical supervision with an assigned clinical psychologist or a senior colleague can provide space for reflection and seeking guidance.
  • Peer support: open communication within teams fosters a supportive working environment.
  • Self-care techniques: mindfulness, meditation, regular exercise routines, healthy eating habits and so on.
  • Setting clear professional boundaries helps prevent burnout.
  • Work-life balance: taking time off with family and friends, doing things one loves or pursuing hobbies.
  • Take short breaks during busy work schedules.
  • Education and training: being proactive to equip oneself with tools to manage emotions effectively.
  • Seek professional advice and help when needed.

I hope these insights and strategies will be helpful to you in your work and in supporting your colleagues. Maintaining one's mental well-being in this highly specialised area of nursing can be complex, but it is essential for fostering a fulfilling and sustainable career.

You may find the following resources useful:

  1. Counselling Service - Get Help / Member Support Services (MSS) - As an RCN member you can get free, confidential support and assistance to help you to deal with challenging emotional issues you may face.
  2. Grief and loss - The RCN's Counselling Service provides information about grief and loss including how to get support.
  3. RCN Magazine - Dealing with death -It’s time to prioritise support for nursing students dealing with the death of a patient, says Megan.
  4. RCN Magazine - How to cope with anxious moments - RCN counsellor, Sarah talks us through strategies to stop challenging times having a longer-term impact.
  5. Mental Health and Wellbeing - Advice and information on issues affecting mental health and wellbeing, including depression, domestic abuse, grief, relationships and stress.


Olajumoke Isaiah

Olajumoke Isaiah

Pain and Palliative Care Forum Committee Member

Specialist nurse in palliative care, Bartholomew Health NHS Trust

Palliative care nurse and a team leader with a nursing background in surgery, oncology and palliative care.

Page last updated - 26/02/2024