4 Dying Child Nursing Care Plans


Meeting the physical, emotional, and psychosocial need of a dying child is important to support the totally dependent child and grieving family in experiencing the best quality of life possible. The child’s terminal illness and care can affect the whole family, hence, the nurse initial role is to establish rapport in order to build and develop effective communication that assists in alleviating unnecessary fears and anxiety about impending death and supporting anticipatory grieving.

Nursing Care Plans

Nursing care plan for a dying child involves providing substantial and appropriate age-related information about death and dying to allay anxiety, providing optimal pain relief through pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods, assisting the child to move through the stages of awareness and acceptance, and helping the family cope through the stages of grieving.

Here are four (4) nursing care plans (NCP) and nursing diagnosis (NDx) for a dying child:

  1. Acute Pain
  2. Anxiety
  3. Anticipatory Grieving
  4. Dysfunctional Grieving

Dysfunctional Grieving

Nursing Diagnosis

  • Dysfunctional Grieving

May be related to

  • Loss of child as result of (specify: accident, SIDS, absence of anticipatory grieving)

Possibly evidenced by

  • Sudden, unexplained and unexpected death of infant
  • Difficulty in expressing loss
  • Expressed distress; anger
  • Guilt over loss
  • Sadness, Crying
  • Shock, GriefDenial
  • Social isolation

Desired Outcomes

  • Parents will resolve dysfunctional grieving.
  • Parents will verbalize understanding about the cause of death.
Nursing InterventionsRationale
Assess feelings of parents and what they perceive happened to the infant.Allows feelings of anger, guilt, and sorrow to be expressed following the death of the infant.
Provide privacy and stay with parents; avoid discussion and questions that may place any blame or cause guilt; (explain cause of death; reinforce that the cause of
SIDS is unknown, with no absolute means to prevent or predict it).
Provides support without adding to grief and feelings of guilt.
Allow parent to determine the length of time they hold their infant or child; this differs by culture and individual parent needs.Promotes positive grief resolution if parents hold/see the infant and spend time saying goodbye on their own terms.
Prepare the child for parents to view and
hold; remain with parents during this
Allows parents to say goodbye to their child.
Inform a clergy or other support if requested/applicable; offer baptism/prayer to parents;Provides support and comfort.
Provide parents the opportunity to inform significant others; if unable, staff member should call.Presence of other family members and significant others often serves as a support for grieving family.
Assist parents to inform and help siblings understand loss; answer children’s questions honestly and appropriately for age level.Children’s concept of death develops with age, and help is needed to avoid feelings of blame and guilt by siblings.
Take pictures of infant and offer to
parents; saving clothing infant, ID bracelets, hats, as part of a “memento packet” to be given to parents; if parents refuse packet, save for future retrieval.
Promotes positive grief resolution.
Reassure parents that they are not
responsible for the death of their child.
Reinforces that SIDS is an unpreventable, unexplainable sudden death of an infant and that no one can be condemned.
Answer any questions about SIDS and
explain the need for an autopsy to verify
the diagnosis.
Reinforces physician’s explanation of disorder.
Correct any misinformation or
misconceptions about the death.
Assists with resolution of guilt and grieving.
Assist to identify and use effective
coping mechanisms appropriate to the situation.
Promotes movement through the grieving process by utilizing defense mechanisms that have worked in the past.
Obtain thorough history from parents,
including parental resuscitation efforts and illness history (experienced or trained member of staff recommended because of sensitive nature of information).
Provides an optimal level of accurate information for the medical examiner.
Contact the infant’s primary care
Improves the parental support system and enhances communication.
Inform of stages and importance of grieving and of behavior that is anticipated in resolving grief.Allows, in a nonjudgmental environment, for the initial shock and disbelief that are
expected behaviors of grief.
Utilize therapeutic communication techniques (i.e., active listening). Encourage parents to verbalize their understanding of the cause of death, their feelings of grief, and any concerns about
seeking assistance with grieving.
Therapeutic communication helps the parents to vent their feelings and identify dysfunctional aspects of their grief.
Refer family to counseling services, local SIDS chapter, community health nursing agency, grief support groups.Provides support and assistance during mourning or chronic grief which may affect family relationships, the presence of
infertility or other problems.


Recommended Resources

Recommended nursing diagnosis and nursing care plan books and resources.

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See also

Other recommended site resources for this nursing care plan:

Other nursing care plans for pediatric conditions and diseases:

Paul Martin is a registered nurse with a bachelor of science in nursing since 2007. Having worked as a medical-surgical nurse for five years, he handled different kinds of patients and learned how to provide individualized care to them. Now, his experiences working in the hospital is carried over to his writings to help aspiring students achieve their goals. He is currently working as a nursing instructor and have a particular interest in nursing management, emergency care, critical care, infection control, and public health. As a writer at Nurseslabs, his goal is to impart his clinical knowledge and skills to students and nurses helping them become the best version of themselves and ultimately make an impact in uplifting the nursing profession.