Hardest thing I've ever done....

  1. As some of you know, I am a new nurse. I got my license this past September. I had my first resident "expire" today. I've dealt with residents dying before- as an STNA. I've done post-mortum care several times, as well as comforted family members afterwards. But I have never had to be the one to tell the family initally before today. Wow-talk about gut-rentching. I still have tears in my eyes! It was not an unexpected death as this woman had been hanging on for a long time- but it was still difficult. I had no idea what to say- or if anything I could possibly say was even slightly comforting. I made it a point to tell them that she went peacefully and wasn't alone, which did seem to be somewhat of a comfort. I just can't shake that feeling. I did everything I could- but I just can't see how it could ever get any easier to tell someone that their loved one has died.

    Anyway- thanks for letting me vent...I'm gonna go hug my kids now.
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   renerian
    It is always gut wrentching. I understand. I worked on a hem/onc/bmt unit for 6.5 years and had to do that more than I would like to recall. It does get somewhat easier but not a whole lot. Shows you are a compassionate person to care so much.

    renerian
  4. by   Stargazer
    Originally posted by jenac
    I made it a point to tell them that she went peacefully and wasn't alone, which did seem to be somewhat of a comfort.<snip> I did everything I could- but I just can't see how it could ever get any easier to tell someone that their loved one has died.
    Sounds like you did a good job. It never gets easy--but it does get easier over time. Having someone kind and compassionate deliver the news tactfully and gently can be a bigger help to the family than you know.

    Some of our "firsts" in nursing are particularly difficult. Big hug to you.
  5. by   pickledpepperRN
    It is always hard.
    You are a normal nurse, thus a very special person.
    I always tell the truth.
    Once I was able to tell a wife her husbands last words were, "Tell my wife I love her."

    Recently one of my most difficult. The family of a woman who had been comatose for days came to visit just after she died. Someone must have rung them in. I was doing post mortum care. The 15 year old 6ft. tall son collapsed on the floor pounding his fists. Her husband tries to wake her up for almost an hour. I was crying but knew I could not leave. Their minister came in an cried too. I had to change into scrubs because there were tears and snot on my uniform. Later I admitted another patient to that room.
    Makes me cry remembering.

    Time to thank you for letting me vent too. And I have been working in hospitals since the 1960s.
  6. by   Rustyhammer
    What to do when you lose one of your residents?
    You cry, You mourn, You reasure the family that she was without pain, You cry, you mourn.
    -Russell
  7. by   Anagray
    It is very hard. I can only imagine what u are going through.

    I ususally don't get emotional on the outside, but since I became pregnant again, my feelings are amplified.
    i was sitting on monitors one day and went to fix some leads on a "frequent flyer" Ann. She had her dinner tray in front of her and noone would feed her. She wasn't out of it, but she had some problems and needed help.
    i knew I wasn't supposed to leave the station for more than a minute, but I fed her for a while anyway. She looked at me when i was leaving and smiled and i should have known that look.

    10 minutes after I went back to my station, she went from 60 to 40 t0 30 and to asystoly. It was the first time someone died on me while i was on monitors. She was DNR.
    When everyone and I went in there she was gone. I was the last one to see her alive. I'm glad that she didn't go hungry anyway.
  8. by   jenac
    Sniff.....thanks guys. It's nice to know I can share this feeling with all of you, and that I'm not alone in feeling this way. I hid in the med room and cried after calling the family. Than I said a little prayer and finished making the arrangements. This woman was a devote catholic, and noone knew if she recieved her last rights or not. I did the best I could- crossed her forhead and asked God to be with her. I really didn't know what else to do. I came home today and hugged my kids, and told them both that I love them very much. Thank you all for sharing.
  9. by   Tweety
    As a team leader, I get to do that all the time. I still hate it. I always make it a point to say they went peacefully and quietly.

    If it's an unexpected and tragic death, I let the doctor do it. But if it's expected and DNR, I'll do it. I usually do o.k. unless it's in person. Once I sent a family out for a break while I cleaned a dying patient up. Did the dreaded turning and cleaning and he passed. I overhead paged them and we all had a good cry. She was heartbroken she wasn't there when her dad passed.
  10. by   jude11142
    i don't think that it gets easier either. as a lpn, we don't notify the family an rn has to. but, since i am in school for rn, i know that i will have to do this. i only hope that i will handle it with compassion and dignity. just 2 nights ago, one of our residents died in her sleep. walked in and she was gone. it was not unexpected as she came back from the hospital under "comfort measures only", but still it's very sad. anyways, our supervisor called the son at 2:30am, to tell him that his mom passed away. i was at the nsg and this is how it went, "mr. so and and, this is ---from -----, you're mother expired at 2:20am, where do you want her body sent? we don't have a funeral home listed"......maybe because i never had to do this before, but i was in shock!!!!! i mean, come on, you're mother expired??!!! when i give report,/chart, i might say patient so and so expired at such a time etc....but i find it uncompassionate to tell a family member in that way. and then, to say, almost in the same breath, "where do you want the body sent?"...come on.... what would i have said? something like, "hi, mr.---, i'm sorry, your mother passed away at 2:20am". do you want to come in?" and then i'd take it from there depending on his response. if i needed to ask about a funeral home, well why not just ask, "do you have a funeral home selected?" in this case, he did have one, it just wasn't in her chart. i know that it's only a few diff. words, but to me, it is a better way of telling a loved one. when my dad died, i remember how i was told vividly. thank god, that the nurse who told me was kind and compassionate. i hope to give the same kind to others. oh well, just my opinion.
  11. by   frannybee
    Week before last I came onto a night shift and was told in handover that one of our young pts was not expected to last long. (37, alcoholic, just came up from ITU after complete physical collapse, had been on dialysis, got peritonitis, liver packed up, chest infection from tracheostomy, nasty pressure sores - the works). The PM staff had been in to her just before handover.

    The auxilliary and I headed to the far end of the ward to start bedding pts down for the night as soon as we came out of report. I had to go back to the linen room for something and as I passed this pt's cubicle, I heard a little voice say, "Nurse?". I went in and pt's sister was standing there, crying, and she said, "I've just arrived - I think she's dead".

    Sure as eggs, I looked at the pt, and there was no life in her. It can't have been more than half an hour between the PM staff leaving her and us finding her. She was DNR and her family knew that she couldn't possibly have survived this admission, but walking in and finding your 37 yo sister dead in her hospital bed is not how anyone wants it to happen. I got her out of there when she'd said her goodbyes and took her to our relatives room. Made tea, rang her other sister etc and did all I could for them. They seemed okay, but it was all I could do to look them in the eye after that. I know that realistically it wouldn't have been different if we'd gone to her first, but I felt so awful that it was her own sister who found her. Laying her out was horrific. I felt like I'd failed her, and she'd trusted me.
  12. by   deespoohbear
    It is hard telling a family their loved one has died. One thing that I dread is not knowing how they are going to react to the death. Some of them just cry softly, and some of them really let their emotions show.

    Jude-the one nurse you described sounds cold hearted. First of all I would never use the word expired to a family. I find that wording very cold and unfeeling. I have had to call families and tell them their loved one has died. It is gut wrenching.

    What I hate even more is when a patient has taken an unexpected turn for the worse or crashed, and I have to call the family. If the doc is around I let him to the calling. I guess I worry about the family getting in a wreck trying to get to the hospital quickly to see their loved one.

    The day you have no feeling whatsoever when you tell a family their loved one is gone, you probably need to hunt for a new profession.
  13. by   duckie
    The one thing I really like about where I work is that we usually get to know the residents families very well. By the time our residents have come close to the end, I have a good feel for the best way to handle them. If they are religious, I always express my sadness at their passing but assure them that they are safe with the Father and all pain is gone. I use the approach that best suits each situation. I always hug the family, even pray with them if they ask, hold their hands, ask that they take all the time they need with their loved one. I never rush them, call ministers upon their request and I make myself available to do what ever needs to be done to ease their pain. I will gladly work OT to cover my other work, for in this situation I feel like you cannot be too kind or offer to much support. I treat everyone like I would want to be treated if that were someone in my family.
  14. by   Scavenger'sWife
    Originally posted by Rustyhammer
    What to do when you lose one of your residents?
    You cry, You mourn, You reasure the family that she was without pain, You cry, you mourn.
    -Russell
    Yes, Rusty...

    Jenac, it is never "easy"...if that was ever the case for me, I would think it was time to quit nursing. I have cried with families and later had the family tell me it was so much better for them to accept their loved one's death coming from me *because* I cried: they viewed it as a sign I had really cared for their loved one.

    The hardest time I ever had was to tell over the phone that the man's mother had died. He was calling to check on her condition, lived out of state, and the patient had died the day before this day but NO other family member had bothered to call him and tell him.

    Jenac, I think it sounds like you did a good job. (((hugs)))

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