first patient death as a CNA, still feeling weird

  1. 2
    I experienced my first patient death on Sunday morning. I've only been a CNA for a few months and it was a strange experience. I did not ever have any direct interaction with this patient because she was unconscious and on comfort care for the duration of my shift until she passed so I only checked on her family. Even so, I felt incredibly upset after I had to wrap her body. This happened on Sunday and I still am in a surreal state of mind. Is it unusual that I am still thinking about it? I know it happens in nursing and I will experience it many more times in the course of my career (I hope to someday become an RN) but it was just so sad. This patient had just been discharged 2 days prior and came back in to die. I do not want to dwell on it and I guess I just don't know how to feel, as silly as that sounds. Any feedback welcome. Thanks.
    Esme12 and nola1202 like this.

    Get the hottest topics every week!

    Subscribe to our free Nursing Insights newsletter.

  2. 17 Comments...

  3. 2
    I know how you feel. I was the same. I was pulled to ICU. A nurse and I were washing this patient who had evisceration in his abdomen. He died while we gave him a bed bath. I was thinking, "OMG! did we do something to this guy?!" Had to clean him up, wrap him and send him to the creepy morgue in the basement. I was traumatized! And it was sad because his mother and brother came to visit him an hour before he passed. God bless his soul & family.
    Esme12 and Poi Dog like this.
  4. 2
    Your feelings are not unusual at all, nor anything to be concerned about. It's all very natural and it sounds like the patient died quietly and peacefully. That's the way to exit this world.
    Esme12 and Poi Dog like this.
  5. 3
    No, not weird at all. You provided comfort and caring to the family--which is so important! This patient died with dignity, and you prepared and wrapped the body and with your compassionate hand, and respect in your heart. The worst part for families is to "leave" their loved one behind after they pass. Since you thought so much of them that you checked on them during their time on your floor, I am sure they took comfort in that. It doesn't get any easier. But you know that you took extra care, and that is so appreciated!
    Esme12, Poi Dog, and littlewingrn like this.
  6. 2
    It's normal to still be affected by it. I still remember the very first patient that ever died while I was his nurse (christmas morning and I no family.... ugh). I was a fairly new nurse, maybe 3-4 months as a RN and I still remember everything. What's worse is that he had PEA - very hard to wrap up a body that still shows a rhythm on telemetry.

    So no, not weird at all.....human nature.
    Esme12 and Poi Dog like this.
  7. 2
    Sending you big hugs!! You're not weird at all. I still remember my first pt death. I'd been a nurse all of 3 weeks. I've been in hospice for the past 12 years and I still get teary-eyed when some of my pts die. It just shows that you are a loving, caring person. Good luck w/ your career plans.
    Esme12 and Poi Dog like this.
  8. 1
    I remember my first death as a CNA. It was a code blue on a very resilient, very old lady. She was "my" patient, too.. I remember having lots of other CNAs tell me more about their experiences, which helped some. Death is never easy, unless you are incredibly detached to the human experience... but in that case, why go into Nursing?

    Poi Dog likes this.
  9. 2
    What you are feeling is very normal. I remember my first patient death like it was yesterday and it is actually 2 years today that it happened. Patient was a full code, I did CPR but it did not save him. I almost quit nursing after that. I have not had one since. You did what you needed to do and you did it with comfort and caring. God bless you!
    Esme12 and Poi Dog like this.
  10. 4
    You always remember the first time you take someone "downstairs." I can still see the first patient I had that died -- sweetest little thing, just a precious person. She had a gentle, peaceful passing, surrounded by her family, at the end of a long life. Much better that some of the futile situations I've been in since.
    Esme12, Poi Dog, BrandybunsRN, and 1 other like this.
  11. 6
    print out this thread of loving compassionate people who feel/felt as you do. Carry it with you and read as needed. You are totally normal and death/preparing the body is a surreal experience esp. when it's time to zip the bag over the face, the first thought is "how will they breathe?"
    I say, try to stay as open as you can to your feelings, rather than shut down and become "used to this"
    Esme12, JDZ344, Hospice Nurse LPN, and 3 others like this.

Nursing Jobs in every specialty and state. Visit today and Create Job Alerts, Manage Your Resume, and Apply for Jobs.

A Big Thank You To Our Sponsors