How do you cope with the death of a patient? - page 2

I'm a senior nursing student taking a Life Transitions course. As a class assignment I need to informally communicate with a nurse on how he/she copes with the death of a client. Anyone want to help... Read More

  1. by   Stitchie
    I think it depends on the nature of the patient's passing. Someone who has lived a great life, with family and friends in abundance, will be mourned and celebrated at their passing. Death is a part of life, and the dead far outnumber the living on this earth.

    Dealing with a child's or young person's death is always so difficult. In the ER, you have to realize that not everyone can be saved, and that you do all you can when you have the chance. Sometimes our jobs just suck because we have to comfort the family and friends of someone who passed too soon, all the while maintaining that professional demeanor. Even though we feel awful and want to cry along with the family, it is important to maintain your professionalism.

    Sometimes it is helpful to have a professional counselor to talk to if you work in a high-stress or high-burnout area. I've used the services of an RN/psychologist practitioner who has unique insight into the jobs we do. I found her help to be invaluable and very timely when going through times of extreme stress.

    My deepest respect is for those who work hem/onc and hospice. I don't know how you do it, day in and day out, but I am grateful for the work you do. Both of my parents died from lung CA, and the impression of those nurses has stayed with me for years. A heartfelt thank you to those who work with the dying; it truly takes a special person to do that kind of work.
  2. by   lee22
    Life is a cycle. Death is inevitable-for all of us. Our profession enables us to assess situations which can be reversed and thus we intervene. Our profession also takes us to situations which can't be remedied. Death is part of life. It has no less meaning then birth. Important to remember is that you can make the inevitable much more comfortable for the pt and that in such situations you are actually nursing the entire family-and in some cases you are actually nursing the family more then the pt. You can truly make a difference in all these situations and therfore it need not be depressing but actually rewarding. What an honor
  3. by   RNKitty
    Quote from jhawkgirl
    Thanks for all of your wonderful replies! I have learned a lot!
    For my assignment I need to ask a nurse a series of questions on the topic. Does anyone want to help me out???
    Thanks!
    I work L&D, and so deal with the rare maternal death and the more frequent but always emotional fetal demise. Go ahead and pm me if this is the experience you want to hear about.
  4. by   Jessy_RN
    Will keep the advice in mind, will need it in the future I am sure.
  5. by   Nurseboy1
    Dealing with the deaths of my patients is truly individual for the patient. My very first experience with death was a patient of mine who coded and died suddenly, it was very traumatic and disturbed me greatly. The last patient that I had that died was a LOL with metastatic ovarian Ca. She was in great pain and resp. distress, I was able to titrate a MS drip to manage her pain and dyspnea. I stood by her bed and held her hand and spoke reasurringly to her. Her family had only briefly left her side but she did not die alone, I was with her the moment she breathed her last breath. Myself and the NA cleaned her and made her bed and placed pictures of her grandchildren in her arms. We removed all of the equipment from the room to allow her children quiet time to grieve the passing of their mother.

    In some manner I have greived and mourned the loss of every single patient that has died under my care. Some I knew well and others I only had on the day of their death.

    How do I cope???? I have cried with the families, allowed their loved ones to tell stories of their lives, bent the rules to allow family members to stay with their loved ones, or simply been a quiet and reassuring presence for the family. I will never stop feeling grief or sadness for the passing of a patient to do so diminishes both their humanity and my own.
  6. by   Bipley
    Quote from Nurseboy1
    Dealing with the deaths of my patients is truly individual for the patient. My very first experience with death was a patient of mine who coded and died suddenly, it was very traumatic and disturbed me greatly. The last patient that I had that died was a LOL with metastatic ovarian Ca. She was in great pain and resp. distress, I was able to titrate a MS drip to manage her pain and dyspnea. I stood by her bed and held her hand and spoke reasurringly to her. Her family had only briefly left her side but she did not die alone, I was with her the moment she breathed her last breath. Myself and the NA cleaned her and made her bed and placed pictures of her grandchildren in her arms. We removed all of the equipment from the room to allow her children quiet time to grieve the passing of their mother.

    In some manner I have greived and mourned the loss of every single patient that has died under my care. Some I knew well and others I only had on the day of their death.

    How do I cope???? I have cried with the families, allowed their loved ones to tell stories of their lives, bent the rules to allow family members to stay with their loved ones, or simply been a quiet and reassuring presence for the family. I will never stop feeling grief or sadness for the passing of a patient to do so diminishes both their humanity and my own.
    Nurseboy, you are very cool. If someone I love is dying I sincerely hope you are their nurse.

    I will write it again, we don't check into this world alone, we shouldn't check out alone either. In the whole scheme of things I don't really know if it makes a difference to the one dying, but it makes a difference to me. It makes me a better and more compassionate nurse. That's why I am in nursing. To be a better and compassionate person.
  7. by   Nurseboy1
    Quote from Bipley
    Nurseboy, you are very cool. If someone I love is dying I sincerely hope you are their nurse.

    I will write it again, we don't check into this world alone, we shouldn't check out alone either. In the whole scheme of things I don't really know if it makes a difference to the one dying, but it makes a difference to me. It makes me a better and more compassionate nurse. That's why I am in nursing. To be a better and compassionate person.
    Thanks Bipley:imbar (I am an easily embarrassed person). I truly believe that it is an honor to provide care for a dying patient. You are the last person to care for that patient and they know if you truly care, you also leave the last impression on the family. Whenever I have a patient that is dying they receive the most attention that I can devote to them, I always strive to provide them dignity with death.
  8. by   Bipley
    Quote from Nurseboy1
    Thanks Bipley:imbar (I am an easily embarrassed person). I truly believe that it is an honor to provide care for a dying patient. You are the last person to care for that patient and they know if you truly care, you also leave the last impression on the family. Whenever I have a patient that is dying they receive the most attention that I can devote to them, I always strive to provide them dignity with death.
    Yep, it is an honor. Whether they are related or not, it is a sincere honor.

    When my Dad was dying he was ashamed that he was wearing diapers. I tried to tell him that it just didn't matter to me. And it REALLY didn't, however I understood his feelings. He mentioned that the very thought of his youngest daughter changing his diapers was something he couldn't deal with. Considering he did his own "cleaning" and I merely did the physical work of changing diapers I assured him I could do this and never see a thing. (he poohed in a bag, not a LOT of cleaning to be done in places that mattered) I can honestly say, I changed his diapers repeatedly and I never saw his penis. Not once. I totally respected his privacy. It was his preference to do things as we did and I respected that. However he did mention that when I got there ... diaper changing was no longer painful. At least I could do one task right!

    I wanted to tell him, yet I didn't... because I knew it wouldn't do any good. It was truly, sincerely, an honor to care for him. I'd change his diapers for a lifetime if I could have him back.

    Dignity at death is essential. I think a lot of medical providers forget that and to my credit, and I believe yours as well... I have never forgotten that. If I do one thing well, it is caring for a dying person. Words don't matter as much, intent REALLY matters a great deal. For dying people, actions really do speak louder than words. I don't have to have the right words, I have to have the proper respect and consideration for their feelings. Sometimes holding their hand speaks volumes. Words just don't matter as much. Or at least, having the right words.

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