Mortality face to face: Death anxiety in paramedics

Death, to die, to have died: the irreversible cessation of cerebral, brain stem, circulatory and respiratory function (World Health Organisation (WHO), 2009), welcomed by some, unexpected by others, but inescapable by all. Death has in recent years in part to palliative care and patient empowerment movements become less of a taboo subject in healthcare, and one that is being discussed more openly within paramedic practice, literature and education (Brady, 2012). A subject that cannot solely be described quite as clinically as the definition above, death permeates all aspects of societal, religious, spiritual, academic, public, family, individual and even work life. For example, Nolan et al (2010) estimate that there are around 30000 cardiac arrests outside hospital in the UK every year, with paramedics having to pronounce death in around 53–61 % of all cases (Douglas et al, 2012). During such situations it regularly falls to paramedics to care for, guide and look after families, relatives and friends in often stressful, distressing, upsetting and confusing situations (Smith-Cumberland and Feldman, 2006). If this is indeed the case, the author questions to whom it falls, to care for, guide and look after the paramedics themselves; putting forward that practitioners' regular interaction with death and the inherent nature of their job increases their potential susceptibility to a concept known as ‘death anxiety’.

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