Death- your experiences - page 2

by Darkfield

6,452 Views | 31 Comments

I'm taking an informal survey here. I work in critical care and I see quite a lot of death. My attitude towards death has become quite callous - when someone is sick, they should be a DNR, and when someone is really sick, they... Read More


  1. 6
    Quote from Darkfield
    My question for all of you who have had experience with dying patients is this; does touching and handling death on the job change your perspective when one of your own family members is dying? Are you more likely to make Grandma a DNR or be at peace with someone's passing?
    Yes. It made me have a conversation with my parents that they then had to have with my GMA. We set up the DPOA the MPOA and DNR status. She is 89 years old and deteriorating fast. Had I not seen the torture that families put loved ones through, we would have never had this conversation.

    And I always joke that nurses have a special circle of hell reserved for us because our black humor is so dark and twisted. It gets us through the day though. Everyone deals with the horrible things in life differently, some are just darker than others.
    Hoozdo, whichone'spink, anotherone, and 3 others like this.
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    Death is the only certainty in life. As nurses, we see more of it than the average person, and are usually better equipped to handle it. Sometimes what we forget is while death is completely normal and natural, so is grief. Death being inevitable doesn't mean that person shouldn't be missed, mourned and cried over. Because it's such an emotional event for everyone, we can't expect completely rational decisions from those involved in the process.
    Some of my biggest challenges have been with families in denial of their loved one's condition, when it's obvious to me where the situation is heading. But it's not my place to make these decisions, I can't decide what's right for them. I would love to see more families accepting of a comfortable, dignified natural death, for the patient's sake. I can only educate and advocate.
    As far as the sense of humor, it's a coping mechanism. We all must find a silver lining in every situation or we'd all be curled up in a ball in a corner catatonic and useless. Since we take on the responsibility of dealing with this, we're entitled to a giggle here and there. Just never in front of the family.
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    Handling death on the job has not made me callous towards death. It has made me more sensitive to it.

    Death is a personal event for the patient and their family.

    I will NEVER be comfortable with death.. death is an ugly thing to see or be involved with.

    I" pulled the plug " when my father died.Was I comfortable with that decision? Can ANYONE be satisfied with that decision?
    Hoozdo and Not_A_Hat_Person like this.
  4. 2
    Quote from Darkfield
    I'm taking an informal survey here. I work in critical care and I see quite a lot of death. My attitude towards death has become quite callous - when someone is sick, they should be a DNR, and when someone is really sick, they should be comfort care. I'm more relieved than upset when people die and death in general does not bother me.

    My question for all of you who have had experience with dying patients is this; does touching and handling death on the job change your perspective when one of your own family members is dying? Are you more likely to make Grandma a DNR or be at peace with someone's passing?

    I'm also interested in this; do you think it is normal and healthy that nurses are comfortable with death or is there something wrong with people who can joke on the way to the morgue and cry during lifetime movies?
    Knowing what I know about prolonging death- Grandma is a DNR. I couldn't stand to have my 90 yr old grandma getting CPR and having all her ribs crushed. Make her comfy, make her happy,and let her go.

    I think nurses have to be comfortable with death. My perspective is that we can't let other people's death affect us in a negative way- they need their families for that. If we get too emotionally involved it will cloud our decision making abilities. I am not sad when my patient's die, in fact, I am normally thankful that they are no longer suffering.
    Last edit by artsmom on Sep 14, '12 : Reason: I wrote in the quoted section
    anotherone and sclpn like this.
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    I believe that once you've reached a certain age and/or stage in a chronic/terminal illness, then you should be a DNR. However, that is my personal belief. It was actually how I was raised. I remember being just a little kid and my paternal grandmother told me, "Granny's going to die soon." She said it in such a matter-of-fact way and, me just being a little kid, I thought she meant she was going to die the next day! It took me a bit of time to realize she just meant, being in her late 70's (my estimate), statistically she wasn't going to be around for much longer (actually, she lived to the age of 94, lol).

    But, that memory has stuck with me ever since. I spent the majority of my life knowing my grandparents could die any day. They were never in denial of their mortality - in fact, they were completely ready for their own deaths. My dad even explained to me that my grandparents had bought their gravestones and their space in the cemetery years and years ago and pre-paid for their cremation so far in advance that they received a partial refund for it (because the price difference from when they paid for it to when they died had changed so much!). This idea that death was inevitable was reinforced by the death of my maternal grandfather when I was about 10-years-old (I never knew him, but still, I knew what death was). I also had a classmate accidentally drown and another of brain cancer when I was 12.

    When I was in nursing school, my uncle was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 70. The prognosis was very poor. He refused all treatment and just wanted comfort measures. His idea was that there was no point going through the difficult treatments only to extend his life a little longer, and for what? He was retired, his children were all grown and self-supportive, and he really did not want to live long enough to be admitted into a nursing home, anyway. He made all the necessary arrangements in preparation for his death, and died 3 months later. The last time I saw him, he was perfectly content with how things were going (besides the pain, of course) and was still joking around with everyone.

    Now I work in medical/oncology with a small palliative section. I see all sorts - people who are ready for death, and others who want to hold on for as long as possible. That goes for both patients and their families. I also see some miraculous recoveries of people we never thought would make it. On the other hand, we see people go through so much suffering just because they were given false hope. For the most part, I've gotten accustomed to seeing dying people and don't get too affected by it. Occasionally, though, there is a patient that comes along and I get close to, and when the time inevitably comes when they must pass on, I do get emotional (not in front of the families, though) I'm lucky that I work with some good doctors that know how to control symptoms, and if not, I can offer up a few suggestions of my own because I've seen so much.

    What's most frustrating to me is when families make a person "palliative" but then want certain invasive things done. For example, the family is concerned if a patient isn't eating or drinking enough so then they want an IV put in. They don't understand that, once a person is dying and at a certain point in that process, they don't require the same amount of food/water as usual. Or, in the event of a Code Blue, they want us to do chest compressions but not to intubate.
    Hoozdo, anotherone, and NurseDirtyBird like this.
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    I work hospice...nuff said about working with and seeing death on a regular basis.

    The American culture has become a death denying culture. We as a people seek to prolong youth, and life in an almost religious manner. In some areas of health care, the medical and nursing professionals are so uncomfortable with death that they cannot even recognize the most obvious signs of decline toward death. Therefore they never speak of it with their patients. Therefore the patients and their families are never provided the opportunity to process through that reality before it becomes their daily routine...and even then they have often become so entrenched in the notion that the "hospital" can fix everything that they cannot accept that allowing a peaceful and dignified death in their home is in anyway appropriate.

    Our death denial as professionals does nothing to serve the needs of our chronically ill patients. Rather, it perpetuates the cycle of admission, readmission, and death in the ICU with extraordinary measures (expensive, emotionally destabilizing, futile care)
    Hoozdo, anotherone, carakristin1, and 5 others like this.
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    I work in aged care with a hospice attached. I enjoy this type of work- maybe I am a bit desensitised.

    I like to ensure the patient is kept comfortable physically and emotionally throughout the dying process.

    I become upset when people die with distress - in my experience this shouldn't happen if people receive the right level of care.

    My dad died at 92 after a long history of CHF, He died peacefully, just the way he wanted.

    I don't think he would have appreciated the people who then took the measure of thumping on his chest and forcing air into his lungs in their effort to bring him back.
    tewdles and anotherone like this.
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    Quote from tewdles
    I work hospice...nuff said about working with and seeing death on a regular basis.

    The American culture has become a death denying culture. We as a people seek to prolong youth, and life in an almost religious manner. In some areas of health care, the medical and nursing professionals are so uncomfortable with death that they cannot even recognize the most obvious signs of decline toward death. Therefore they never speak of it with their patients. Therefore the patients and their families are never provided the opportunity to process through that reality before it becomes their daily routine...and even then they have often become so entrenched in the notion that the "hospital" can fix everything that they cannot accept that allowing a peaceful and dignified death in their home is in anyway appropriate.

    Our death denial as professionals does nothing to serve the needs of our chronically ill patients. Rather, it perpetuates the cycle of admission, readmission, and death in the ICU with extraordinary measures (expensive, emotionally destabilizing, futile care)
    Sad...
    tewdles likes this.
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    I work in LTC, 3 years now, I am not calloused, I see myself as enlightened, death comes to us all, when a person is sick or old, comfort and pain meds help relieve any suffering so one can die more peacefully. I think religion can help people come to terms with death, I for one believe our souls live on and the pain goes away. If children are raised with religion and nonjudgmental attitudes then it could help them later in life to see death as a passage to something better.
    tewdles likes this.
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    Being a home hospice nurse I deal with death all day. I think if your not comfortable with death...nursing as a profession is going to hard for you. I do think people should think about their code status...I'm fighting Leukemia and am a DNR. If I die it is my time...for God's sake don't bring me back just so my family can turn me off again. I think people think a code blue is like on tv and the patient wakes up and eats jello. Only 5% of codes end in a pt returning the same....I think medical staff needs to be more honest with patients and families. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a home for a hospice appt and the pt has no idea their dying....the doctor left that part out!!
    Darkfield, Hoozdo, and sclpn like this.


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