Families who have a child with a life-threatening disease need support during the illness and in the bereavement phase. Although few would disagree, the means to provide such a network is not easy. During 10 years working in an oncology clinic, I have become aware of the importance of close liaison links within the clinic itself and in the community. By the nature of life-threatening and terminal illness, staff members need opportunities to discuss their feelings towards their patients if such extremes as patient avoidance or identification are to be prevented. Once a close team spirit exists, the likelihood of an individual becoming over-stressed diminishes. Although all team personnel are potentially at risk, I would suggest that those at greatest risk are at opposite ends of the hierarchy, i.e. the consultant constantly faced with challenging medical decisions and involvement with emotionally drained parents and the junior nurses, seen as ‘safe’ people on whom to unburden. The latter spend more time with the families and have no legitimate mode of escape!
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