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Ways of ‘Being With’

Caring for Dying Patients at the Height of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Annelieke Driessen, Erica Borgstrom, and Simon Cohn


Palliative care professionals often speak of the importance of forming meaningful relationships with patients and their families. Trust and rapport, usually established over extended periods of time through face-to-face interactions, and a ‘gentle honesty’ regarding end-of-life and death are key aspects of developing a sense of intimacy with people who are approaching the end of their lives. A fundamental feature of this intimacy is conveying a sense of ‘being with’ a patient. However, these ways of working were greatly challenged by the impact of COVID-19. This article explores how intimacy both was and was not established at the height of the pandemic, and it describes the extent to which shared concerns functioned as a new means to create a sense of a common experience.