How do you deal with seeing a dead body?

  1. 0
    I am 30 years old and I have never seen a dead human being. Ever.

    I know I will be seeing a corpse during my LPN training and of course will be when I become a nurse, but this aspect of becoming a nurse is the scariest for me.

    I can deal with poop/vomit/blood/ulcers/pus etc and none of it bothers me. But I really freak out at the thought of being near/having to handle a dead body.

    Any words of wisdom for me?

    It's really been weighing on my mind lately.

    Thanks.
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  4. 0
    What is it that scares you about it?

    Don't think of it as a dead body but as the old vessel of the soul that has departed. The body is not the essence of the person that lived.
  5. 0
    When I was in A&P we had two cadavers that were used for teaching/testing purposes (literally... a little flag was stuck into a muscle and we had to name the muscle type thing) That was weird.
    However, we had a pt die a while back on the floor when I was working (I intern right now..grad in a few weeks) I volunteered to do the post mortem care so I would have that experience. I have to say it was very weird. The oddest part was removing her oxygen...I sort of felt like I was removing her "air" Removed her IV and foley. Then we zipped her in the body bag and that felt like I was suffocating her. It was just a very odd, unnatural experience. I think it will feel even more strange when it's a pt I've taken care of.
    I can't say it was really scary - just a very abnormal feeling.
  6. 0
    I've seen so many dead bodies that I can't even count them anymore. My feelings are the same for most of them - that their soul has moved on to another place and we are left to (respectfully) care for the shell. And so that's what you do.

    A lot of the time patients look better after they die!! I took care of one man who'd been in the ICU for forever - multi-system failure, trach, PEG, vent, decubs, the whole enchilada. He finally, finally coded one night and we couldn't revive him, and when it was all done and we cleaned him up for family to see him, he looked SO PEACEFUL. His color was even better, amazing as that sounds! We were happy for him that he was gone, truthfully. He did suffer tremendously.

    The point is that it all depends on how you approach death in general. If you can be glad for someone that their suffering has ended, then you can be glad to take care of the body that housed their spirit.

    Try not to let this scare you too much.
  7. 0
    I had the same feelings prior to Anatomy. I was scared to death of dead bodies and couldn't even go to my step-father's funeral because I didn't want to see him dead.

    But it ended up being ok - I actually enjoyed dissection theatre. We had two cadavers - both brand new.

    I have to say it was easier than cats for some reason . . .

    steph
  8. 1
    I've seen many dead bodies, as I work in a nursing home. The sight of a dead body has never really disturbed me.

    When one of my elderly patients dies, I will notify the family via a telephone call. Then I will remove all bandages, indwelling catheters, diapers, oxygen tubing, and PICC lines from the corpse before calling the mortuary for release of the body.

    You will eventually become acclimated to the sight and smell of death. It is a shame that death has become so foreign in our postindustrial society, when it is a natural part of the life span. Human life is temporal, and we are all going to die someday. Therefore, death does not bother me.
    CaLLaCoDe likes this.
  9. 5
    I used to be worried about that too. Last year, my baby died shortly after birth. It was the first body I had ever seen and touched. Holding her and knowing that she was a person made something in me change.

    I'm doing my practical elective in the NICU right now. Yesterday, one of the babies died. Although I was not working with him when he died, my preceptor allowed me to help with post-mortem care. I kept thinking back to my experience a year ago and just kept in my mind what would help this mother and father get through this horrible time in their lives. I made a bracelet with the baby's name on it, prepared the memorial box with keepsakes in it (footprints, clothes the baby wore, a ceramic heart for mom, socks, binky, comb, etc..) and helped the nurse dress and take pictures of the baby. I was also the one who took out all the IV's and removed the tape and band-aids and cleaned him up. We put baby lotion on his skin so mom could remember his smell and combed his hair. We talked to him the whole time. I just wanted that mom to be able to see her baby as a baby, even if he had already gone to heaven.

    It was a very special and healing day for me and I will no longer fear it. Just remember that this person was loved by someone and that this person deserves dignity. It will do wonders for your psyche while you take final care of them.

    DeLySh
  10. 0
    For postmortem care, make sure that if you remove lines that you apply a bulky dressing, because serum will leak out. Expect the body to be heavier than even a comatose live person......the term "dead weight" is not just a saying.
  11. 0
    If the departed my pt. I would check his vs and talk as if he were alive, " I am going to check your pulse now...hm-m-m, okay, let's listen to your heart". This helps if there is a roommate on the other side of a curtain...and helps me focus on what I am doing.

    If it is not my pt. but I am assisting a co-worker, I will still talk as we move the body or remove foley, etc. It has a calming affect and seems more respectful than talking about other things.
  12. 0
    Quote from DeLySh
    I used to be worried about that too. Last year, my baby died shortly after birth. It was the first body I had ever seen and touched. Holding her and knowing that she was a person made something in me change.

    I'm doing my practical elective in the NICU right now. Yesterday, one of the babies died. Although I was not working with him when he died, my preceptor allowed me to help with post-mortem care. I kept thinking back to my experience a year ago and just kept in my mind what would help this mother and father get through this horrible time in their lives. I made a bracelet with the baby's name on it, prepared the memorial box with keepsakes in it (footprints, clothes the baby wore, a ceramic heart for mom, socks, binky, comb, etc..) and helped the nurse dress and take pictures of the baby. I was also the one who took out all the IV's and removed the tape and band-aids and cleaned him up. We put baby lotion on his skin so mom could remember his smell and combed his hair. We talked to him the whole time. I just wanted that mom to be able to see her baby as a baby, even if he had already gone to heaven.

    It was a very special and healing day for me and I will no longer fear it. Just remember that this person was loved by someone and that this person deserves dignity. It will do wonders for your psyche while you take final care of them.

    DeLySh

    {{{{DeLySh}}}}

    My heartfelt sympathies for your loss. Often the best lessons we learn on how to care for the living are based on our own experiences. If you had not suffered a similar loss of your own, you would not have had the empathy for the mom that you did.


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