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“It’s okay to talk about dying”, says Musgrove Park Hospital doctor - 09 May 2016

“It’s okay to talk about dying”, says Musgrove Park Hospital doctor - 09 May 2016

Patients, visitors and healthcare workers at Musgrove Park Hospital are being encouraged to talk more openly about death, bereavement and end of life wishes.

The international Dying Matters Awareness Week takes place from 9 – 15 May and the hospital is marking the week with a series of events aimed at encouraging people to talk about these things.

During the week, clinicians involved in end of life care and bereavement will be on hand in and around the hospital concourse, as part of the world-wide recognised “Death Café”[1] social franchise, to give people an opportunity to talk in a supported environment.

A nurse from the hospital’s emergency department is also in the process of writing a collaborative poem, partly based on conversations with staff, patients and loved ones about what makes life enjoyable. 

Allison Day, emergency nurse practitioner at Musgrove Park Hospital, said she was writing the poem to highlight the importance of good communication in end of life care.

“The poem is called ‘Hippocrates’ Memo’, named after the ancient oath taken by doctors to do no harm and always act in the best interests of their patients.” she said.

“I have been inspired by the very interesting and often moving conversations I’ve had with people – these are at the heart of the project, and can hopefully play a part in improving the way we communicate with patients and their loved ones in the future.”

Dr Tom MacConnell, consultant cardiologist and end of life care clinical lead at Musgrove Park Hospital, said: “Death and dying has long been regarded as a ‘taboo’ subject in this country, but we want to tell patients, their relatives and hospital staff that it’s really okay to talk about dying.

“To help with this we are running sessions near our main hospital concourse throughout Dying Matters Awareness Week for patients and their relatives to speak to our specially trained advisors in end of life care.

“We know that only about one in four people lets others know their funeral wishes, and less than one in 14 people write down their preferences when it comes to how they would like to be cared for if they could no longer make decisions.

“By talking about death as early as possible, patients will be able to take more control over the final moments of their life, and hospital staff and carers may be able to make their wishes come to reality.”

Dr Chris Absolon, a GP and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s GP lead for end of life care said: “We take it for granted that most people in this country have a birth plan, but few discuss or make arrangements for their eventual death. This might seem like a morbid topic but many people have specific wishes about their end of life care or what they would like to happen to them after their death, but a reluctance to discuss these issues makes it much less likely that these will be met.

“Just like the public, health professionals often find it difficult to broach the subject of death and dying with patients or their relatives. Being able to facilitate such conversations well and in a way that is sensitive to the patient’s wishes is a real skill and one which many health professionals say they would like to improve.”

For more information about Dying Matters, visit http://www.dyingmatters.org/

[1] http://deathcafe.com/

 

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