I have been on both sides of this issue. I started out as a nurse tech/aide on a telemetry floor, then went to the ICU. I saw several people code, some survived, some didn't. At the time, I got an adrenaline rush from it - helping the nurses, saving someones life, or trying the best we could to defeat someones "time to go".
Then, about a little less than a year of working my father had a lung transplant. He coded in the ICU after several bounces from unit to floor to rehab to floor etc. My mom called me on a wednesday to tell me he had been readmitted and was going to the unit. At 5 am the next morning she woke me up to tell me he was coding. Since I had seen people in the unit code several times before, I knew it was "controlled chaos" if you will. I asked to speak to the nurse. After she told me it had been 40 minutes, I knew it was over.
I drove like I was at the Indy 500 to the hospital...hoping by some miracle that he would be alive when I got there, knowing he wouldn't be. We they let us in the room, he was cleaned up with a sheet over him, a mess of heplocks and stuff under the bed. All I could think about was what they did to him..just like I'd seen so many times before. I thought about that for a LONG time.
NO, as an RN...I don't think this should be common practice..to let your family in to watch this traumatic event. It gave me nightly nightmares for months and I didn't even see it! People want to remember their loved ones in a good light, not laying blue with someone pounding away at their chest.
In retrospect, this whole experience....HARD as it was...I feel made me a better nurse. Each family is different and being a nurse with good intution will make the right judgement call.
I also think that this is exactly why people should be told what it means to be a DNR. SO many times patients and families don't want to be pounded on but still want to be treated....they don't understand exactly what it means we will be doing, or not doing.