As a nurse will I be exposed to dead patients a lot? - pg.2 | allnurses

As a nurse will I be exposed to dead patients a lot? - page 2

Hello, I am currently a nursing student and I am confused on if I really want to continue going to school for this. Today in class my professor had some bones from a 12 year old boy and was using... Read More

  1. Visit  xoemmylouox profile page
    1
    Death is very tough for me as well. In some cases it really is for the best. In others it isn't fair and it sucks. That is the part that is hard for me.
    tokmom likes this.
  2. Visit  tokmom profile page
    2
    Quote from stopthepenguins6
    You can never guarantee that you won't see death, as we are healthcare providers and things do happen, but you can help to minimize your level of exposure, as it's all in where you work. If you work in a critical setting, an ICU, an ER, hospice, oncology, etc., you can expect to see some death. But if you go somewhere like orthopedics, med/surg, labor and delivery, things like that, you will typically have transferred your patient out before things get that critical. The risk is still there...even hip fractures can go bad quickly, and babies can get into distress during the birth process, but those events are few and far between on a typically healthier, lower acuity floor.

    When I worked on an ortho floor, I never saw death. Now that I'm in the ICU, I see it frequently. It was scary for me at first, and it was due a lot to my own insecurities about death. I had never dealt with a dead body, but now that I've had a few patients that died, it's easier. It's still a hard thing to do...you never get over the respect for human life. But it's easier to be in the room and not be uncomfortable at the fact that I'm bathing a deceased person now that I've had some exposure.

    Was it the fact that the bones were from a child that got to you? If so, avoid pediatrics. Or was it just the fact that they were bones? Figuring out exactly what it was that got to you is key, because then you can figure out what to do to fix it, whether it's just a need for more familiarity, dealing with your own fears, or a weak stomach.
    Med/Surg? I have seen a lot of death in med/surg. Especially with areas of higher elderly populations and those that have oncology mixed in. We had 2 just this last week. One that was 84 and another 102.

    OP, death is not easy to deal with, when it's the young people or IMO, tragic. The ones that are elderly...well...many of them are tired and ready to go. Yeah, it's still difficult, but doable. Those are the type of pt's some nurses get satisfaction taking care of because it's comfort care. Doing the small things to ease pain and suffering. I have had pt's families tell me thank you for taking such good care of their loved one until and even after their last breath. Those moments make this job worthwhile and make me go back to work another day.
    Last edit by tokmom on Oct 6, '12
    Fiona59 and anotherone like this.
  3. Visit  egglady profile page
    4
    I work in LTC. Death can be a blessing. If you believe in Quality of life vs Quantity of life, it just may not be so bad. I think it all depends on the situation. Heck, even in LTC, some really get to you. I truly am a believer in Quality of life.
    Fiona59, DizzyLizzyNurse, tokmom, and 1 other like this.
  4. Visit  stopthepenguins6 profile page
    0
    Quote from tokmom
    Med/Surg? I have seen a lot of death in med/surg. Especially with areas of higher elderly populations and those that have oncology mixed in. We had 2 just this last week. One that was 84 and another 102.
    .
    Apologies, with the med/surg floor I worked on, I saw maybe 1 hospice/comfort measures patient every few months. I didn't think about the fact that maybe that was unique to my floor .
  5. Visit  NurseFrustrated profile page
    0
    I agree with the other posters here. It does depend on which area of nursing you are in. When I worked hospice for 2 years, I had several patients die but they were expected deaths. It's still sad and hard for the families and staff though. I have held patient's hands while they died. When I worked med/surge and ortho/neuro, we had a couple of codes where patients died. Fortunately it didn't happen very often. When I worked rehabilitation, I rarely saw patients die.

    Good assessment skills come into play when you work in any area of nursing. If you see any serious changes in your patient or any decline in their condition, ask for another nurses's opinion about your patient (especially your charge nurse or house supervisor nurse), or utilize your hospital's rapid response team. Call that doctor, get the patient transferred, whatever you have to do to prevent the patient getting to that point unless it is an expected death (such as with hospice). In that case you keep the patient comfortable, provide caring and support to them and their family, and keep things as dignified for them as possible.
  6. Visit  DizzyLizzyNurse profile page
    1
    I did LTC for 10 years. Obviously I saw a lot of death and as someone else said, a lot of times in LTC it's a blessing. Now I work in med surge. My floor specializes in oncology and has a few hospice rooms so I do see death or dying a lot at work now too. We've also coded some post surgical pts since I've been there. I think pretty much most nursing specialties see death. Some are less than others though. Death bothered me a lot at first. Now it only really bothers me if it's someone younger or it's unexpected. In school, I found the unit on child abuse a lot more disturbing than death to be honest.
    Fiona59 likes this.
  7. Visit  not.done.yet profile page
    2
    I see more people who probably ought to be dead or look dead than actually are. In fact in nine months I have seen one dead body.
    sapphire18 and Fiona59 like this.
  8. Visit  Twinmom06 profile page
    1
    I just did my first post mortem care a few weeks ago...granted I wasn't there when she passed, the charge nurse took several of my classmates to pull lines and foleys etc...it was an interesting experience - and has made me more comfortable...up till now (I'm in my 3rd of 4 semesters) I haven't seen any death...I've seen one code (respiratory - she never lost her pulse) and a few RRT's and I was more nervous about them!

    (although I do have to say the store room where I work as an aide has a supply of body bags - that was a bit unnerving at first!)
    Fiona59 likes this.
  9. Visit  umcRN profile page
    1
    Quote from tamadrummer
    I have been a nurse for 3 months in a pcu/icu and have coded 5 (none made it), had one die 1.5h into my shift, and have helped with postmortem care on 4 others. Death can be dignified and a very important part of nursing care because of the people left behind. Nursing care does not end when the patient in the bed stops living. We are tasked with unbelievable responsibility to the patient and family. Doctors get to go In and out, we are left with the rest. This is a real part of nursing ( at least in the area I live in, in florida)

    Sent from my iPhone using allnurses.com
    This is so true. A sweet sweet baby boy I had come to love died recently. I had a deep bond with him and his family. When he finally passed it was me who went in there to tell the family, doctor showed up about half an hour later to officially declare him. I spent my 12 hour shift assisting his family with things like hand/foot prints, cutting locks of hair, bathing & dressing him, taking pictures, and when they were finally ready to go, I rocked him in my arms so they didn't have to leave him lying alone in a bed. When they were gone, I gave him another wash over (he had bled quite a bit while family was holding), shrouded him, wrapped him in a clean blanket and carried him to the morgue in my arms. While this day was emotionally draining and difficult for me, I am glad that I got to be the one to be there for his family and to take care of him in his final moments.

    I work in a PICU with prior experience in a NICU. Sadly we do see death, maybe not as much as in the adult world, but frequently enough. I am part of my hospitals bereavement team and I will say I enjoy and find it an honor to be able to take care of these children and families in their final moments. It is never easy, nor do I think it will ever get easier, I have never once not shed at least a few tears for my tiny patients who pass.

    As you go through school and into your career at some point, no matter where you work, you are likely to experience death at least once or twice. You will come to figure out how you deal with it in your own way. My suggestion though, as others have said, would be to start your career in a place that does not see death daily, so that you are able to sort through your own feelings about it without it staring you in the face on a day to day basis.
    Fiona59 likes this.
  10. Visit  PediLove2147 profile page
    1
    I work on a post op floor so I see death rarely but lately we've been getting CMO (comfort measures only) patients from the neuro ICU. They are difficult but these deaths are expected and the families are (usually) prepared for it so it makes it a little easier.
    Fiona59 likes this.
  11. Visit  DizzyLizzyNurse profile page
    0
    Quote from umcRN

    I work in a PICU with prior experience in a NICU. Sadly we do see death, maybe not as much as in the adult world, but frequently enough. I am part of my hospitals bereavement team and I will say I enjoy and find it an honor to be able to take care of these children and families in their final moments. It is never easy, nor do I think it will ever get easier, I have never once not shed at least a few tears for my tiny patients who pass.
    What do you do as part of a bereavement team?
  12. Visit  umcRN profile page
    1
    Quote from DizzyLizzyNurse
    What do you do as part of a bereavement team?
    Basically just make sure each unit has the resources it needs to deal with pediatric deaths. Each unit also has a bereavement council (ideally). Unlike in the adult world, when little ones die families may not have had the chance to do a whole lot of "memory making" especially with infants. We keep units supplied with arts and crafts for hand/foot prints and molds, "Beads of courage", blankets & clothes, resources for siblings, we keep in contact with volunteer photography groups who do end of life photography for children and other things like that. More importantly we make sure nurses know what the resources are and what kinds of things to offer families in these situations. Every nurse is going to have that "first" time and we want to make sure there is a few people on every unit at all times prepared to help. Again, unlike in the adult world, families often want to be the ones giving the bath and dressing the child, they want to take photos, even after death, they want to hold their child. We just try to make sure we keep our supplies up and share any new ideas we may hear of.
    DizzyLizzyNurse likes this.
  13. Visit  KelRN215 profile page
    1
    It definitely depends on the speciality. I would not suggest oncology if you are wary of death. When I worked in the hospital, I worked pedi neuro/neurosurgery/neuro-onc. The majority of our deaths were the oncology population though every now and then other patients would die too. A decent portion of the patients went home to die with hospice but some parents didn't want their kids to die at home and chose to remain inpatient. We'd sometimes go months without a comfort care patient and then we'd have 3 or 4 back to back.

    Death is a part of life and most definitely a part of nursing. You probably wouldn't see too many dead bodies if you were a school nurse or a nurse in a primary care setting. You'd still have patients who die (my high school had 3 deaths in as many years but no one died at school) but you wouldn't necessarily have to care for the remains.
    DizzyLizzyNurse likes this.


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