Dealing with death...

  1. I can't get this situation out of my head. I'm a new grad and was only observing, but I feel such sadness. I watched as a teenager was pronounced dead in our trauma room after being shot multiple times. This is not what bothered me...what got me was what happened about 15 minutes later. The family of this kid showed up and of course were not allowed to view the body, since it is now a coronor's case. This family was screaming and flailing, and experiencing a grief I can only immagine. They were led into a room for privacy, but everyone (the patients in rooms with doors shut) in the entire ER was asking about what was going on. I just keep thinking about what a messed up world this is that this kid was killed tonight. I keep thinking about what the family must be going through right now. I never want to become so hardened that I don't care, but I don't want to get a lump in my throat that persists even when I'm home either. Does this ever get any easier??
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  2. 17 Comments

  3. by   gonzo1
    Yes, it does get easier. And as you become more experienced and feel better about the job that you do you find peace with the fact that you help a lot of people in a time of need. I am often reminded that occasionally I am the last person someone sees, and keep that in mind as I take care of my patients, trying to always treat them with skill and compassion.
    I used to cry with every death and now I am the one that goes with the doctor to tell the families sometimes. Remember, it is not unprofessional for the family to see you cry or show emotion, we are people too.
  4. by   queen47
    As a 2nd yr student, I still cry when I loose a patient, especially, young ones.
  5. by   Pumiky
    does it ever get easier? No it doesn't, and in my opinion it shouldn't. not when it comes to kids being shot. If it does get easier then we've failed as a society. I work on a palliative floor and I see death all the time, but on my floor death is a "welcomed" thing as it ends the suffering of our patients. What you've described angers me, there's no excuse for a young life to end this way. You are entitled to have all those feelings, that's what makes you human and probably a very good nurse. Take your time, cry if you need to, hit a pillow, don't keep it all in. How did the rest of your nursing staff react? is there anybody there that you can talk to?
    All the best
    pumiky
  6. by   traumaRUs
    It gets easier in the sense you learn better coping skills. However, you never get "used" to death, especially senseless traumatic deaths. I am sorry you are going thru this.

    Does your ER have a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing team? THese are specially trained personnel who can help to defuse and destress a situation - they actually come to the ER immediately after a traumatic event to help the staff cope.
  7. by   vamedic4
    I agree with Trauma, the coping skills you learn are a protective mechanism for dealing with the deaths you describe. They are incredibly painful for family members, but can be equally so for staff. While I may not know the patient personally, I do feel for the family, having to endure what they're going through. I'll find a nice quiet place and shed a tear or two if I need to...no problems here.
  8. by   JBudd
    As long as the family knows we can't remove any tubes, or let family "do" anything to the body, we let the parents in to say goodbye. Nurse stays in the room to make sure nothing is "disturbed", usually the PD is already there as well.
  9. by   chadash
    Been thinking alot about this subject of late. Did hospice for a few years until recently, and much of the emotion is hitting as a delayed response. At the time you sort of have to go on to the next person. Lost my last patient last month, and it has hit me hard. Now that I am doing hospital work and a little old lady type takes to me, it makes me draw back a bit inside. This is a new response for me, must be a bit burnt out.
    It is not possible not to feel the loss. It does help to have some support. Where you get that, I am not sure.
  10. by   bill4745
    If this job doesn't make you cry once in a while, you have chosen the wrong profession.
  11. by   donsterRN
    Quote from traumaRUs
    It gets easier in the sense you learn better coping skills. However, you never get "used" to death, especially senseless traumatic deaths. I am sorry you are going thru this.

    Does your ER have a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing team? THese are specially trained personnel who can help to defuse and destress a situation - they actually come to the ER immediately after a traumatic event to help the staff cope.
    This is exactly what I wanted to say.

    I was feeling rather guilty about my answer to the question about whether dealing with death gets easier. My first thought was "Oh yes, of course it gets easier" but I realized that wasn't the case, or at least that's not how it feels. It is less intense in many ways because one does develop coping skills as a normal response to stress.

    I think if there's ever a time when you DO get used to it or it doesn't bother you anymore, that's the time to try something else in nursing.
  12. by   HM2VikingRN
    Quote from Don3218
    This is exactly what I wanted to say.

    I was feeling rather guilty about my answer to the question about whether dealing with death gets easier. My first thought was "Oh yes, of course it gets easier" but I realized that wasn't the case, or at least that's not how it feels. It is less intense in many ways because one does develop coping skills as a normal response to stress.

    I think if there's ever a time when you DO get used to it or it doesn't bother you anymore, that's the time to try something else in nursing.
    Prompt and skilled debriefing is probably the best immunization against developing PTSD.
  13. by   cuddlebug
    Don3218. ......Did you mean you expect it rather than get used to it?
  14. by   Bibagirl
    My patient died last night, 59 years old, he just got to CTICU from the OR,, post CABG, and everything was going along fine, then 40 mins later, he crashed, went back to the OR and died there. The family was in shock, so was I, it was all going so well.... This afternoon, I was sad and cried, I still feel bad, very down. I can only imagine what the wife is going through.
    I'm torn about looking for his obituary in the paper tomorrow, I want to know a little more about him, (as I only knew him for 40 mins,), and I guess I want to know what kind of a man he was. I just don't want to get sad all ove again.

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