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A UK nurse together with a psychologist have launched a Good Grief Café to help community staff talk about their experiences of loss, death and dying.

The Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust cafés offer an informal and confidential space that allows staff to reflect on how death affects everyone both personally and professionally.

The one-hour sessions are co-facilitated by professional nurse advocate Kate Price and clinical psychologist Catherine Lacey.

“During the pandemic our community staff experienced an unprecedented number of patient deaths and a significant increase in the number of patients receiving palliative care,” Ms Price said.

“We developed the Good Grief Café to acknowledge the accumulation of grief we experience throughout our careers, to normalise the grief process and to provide extra support.”

Three neighbourhood nursing teams took part in the Good Grief Café pilot, with 91% scoring the sessions as ‘useful’ to ‘very useful’ and recommending the café to colleagues.

Nurses experienced particular distress and sadness during the COVID-19 pandemic when they were seeing such a high number of complex patients, Ms Lacey said.

“Social distancing restrictions at the time made it even more isolating because incidental supportive conversations between colleagues that would usually happen in an office became less available.

“Being able to talk about the impact of loss and having a space to speak with colleagues strengthens the relationship of the team. A lot of staff don’t realise something has had an impact on them and others until they have the space to talk about it.”

Genevieve Irono, a clinical nurse lead and practice educator, joined one of the first cafés.

“COVID-19 had a large impact on our team so it was good to talk about it and listen to how others felt. Grief and death affects everybody one way or another and when you talk about how you feel it helps you to heal,” she said.

Cendrig Rodriguez, a neighbourhood nursing development coach, attended the café after experiencing a family bereavement.

“It was a relief to finally talk about something that I had been keeping to myself. It’s hard to let go but speaking in that protected environment made me feel comfortable so I could open up – it made me feel heard and valued.”

Refreshments for the café are funded by Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity.