How do you handle the death of a patient?

  1. Is it sometimes hard for you as a healthcare professional when someone dies? Especially if the family is unconsolable.

    Does it bother you if certain cultures react in a way that you are not familiar with?

    I am a student nurse and work part time in a hospital.

    A patient died and the entire family (probaly 35 people) came, viewed the body and held hands and prayed for maybe 30 minutes around the body. Some of the staff were rude, gawking and looking plain irritated and begin asking certain ethnic groups as to why were they doing it and if they thought he could be raised from the dead. That was not the case as I understood what they were doing. I actually overheard the man praying and thanking God for the deceased's beautiful long life and were asking God to accept him into His arms. I thought it was beautiful.

    The family finished, but didn't leave and proceeded to stand around.

    Any suggestions, comments and feedback are always appreciated!
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  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   wendoly
    Originally posted by nursebucky
    Is it sometimes hard for you as a healthcare professional when someone dies? Especially if the family is unconsolable.

    Does it bother you if certain cultures react in a way that you are not familiar with?

    I am a student nurse and work part time in a hospital.

    A patient died and the entire family (probaly 35 people) came, viewed the body and held hands and prayed for maybe 30 minutes around the body. Some of the staff were rude, gawking and looking plain irritated and begin asking certain ethnic groups as to why were they doing it and if they thought he could be raised from the dead. That was not the case as I understood what they were doing. I actually overheard the man praying and thanking God for the deceased's beautiful long life and were asking God to accept him into His arms. I thought it was beautiful.

    The family finished, but didn't leave and proceeded to stand around.

    Any suggestions, comments and feedback are always appreciated!
  4. by   Nurse Izzy
    Where I work, when a patient dies, the family is allowed as much time as needed. The post-mortem will wait. The only time they are interrupted is for the Dr. if he hasn't already made it there and for the nurse to prepare the body. Usually the family is very understanding of this.

    As for cultural differences, I personally haven't had to face that in death. I've dealt with various cultures who have been more than willing to share their beliefs as long as you are open minded and truly willing to listen/learn, but I can't see death as being the most opportune time to discuss this.

    Hope that helps?
  5. by   GPatty
    I've not had to deal with different cultures as of yet, but I am sure that will come up someday.
    I find it hard to deal with simply because I work in LTC and have gotten close to my patients (My extended family )
    I love them all...even the cranky ones, and I hurt when they pass on. But I also know they are no longer suffering and they will have a new body when the Lord comes again. Until then, they will sleep....
  6. by   jemb
    I have encountered many different ways that families deal with somone's death. Some are cultural, some religious, some hysterical... It's never easy, even when I do understand the behavior. But as nurses, we need to consider and respect however individuals and groups choose to say good-bye to their loved ones.

    Sounds like the staff where you work needs some serious education in manners as well as compassion.
  7. by   MandyInMS
    Just always remember that everyone handles death/dying differently..and it is their right to do so..give them patience and support and always be non-judgemental.Who are we to say what is right/wrong?
  8. by   mattsmom81
    I refuse to push grieving families out...I give them all the time they need. Even when administration is pushing me to get the body out cuz there's a patient in ER waiting for the bed..

    You will encounter many less than perfect nurses. Use them as an example of how NOT to practice when you become a nurse.
  9. by   gwenith
    Originally posted by MandyInMS
    Just always remember that everyone handles death/dying differently..and it is their right to do so..give them patience and support and always be non-judgemental.Who are we to say what is right/wrong?
    Mandy you are so right. REaction to death is a very INDIVIDAUL thing but, having said that it is also the hardest job in nursing you will learn.

    Whether you are a nurse, an aide or a Visiting Medical Officer dealing with death and dying is onw of the steepest leaning curves there is. Nurses in particular develop a higher acceptance of the inevitablity of death than is the general for the rest of the population. The best way to handle death is to remember that you are no longer there for the patient - they do not need you anymore except to show the final respect. You are really there for the RELATIVES. Your focus should shift from the dying patient (I am talking here about those who are unaware and non-interactive it is different if the patient is aware and interactive until the end) to the relatives to help them through this stage of the person's life.

    Sometimes just doing little comfort measures make an enormous difference. I work with a CNC who will use aromatherapy. Just a nice mixture of background smells - we will ask about the patient's favourite music and see if we can have that playing and then we give the relatives space to greive in thier own way. It isn't much but it show you care and that is always appreciated.

    To cry or not to cry.

    I have had the misfortune of caring for children who have died from traumatic events. I have always cried - can't help it and the family is always SO supportive because it shows you care. You can be left wondering who is comforting whom. I have met nurses who claim it is "unprofessional" to cry but kids are special and it would be different if the family reacted negatively.

    It becomes easier........

    if you have come to terms with your own mortality. This is a difficult thing to do - sit down and think of your own death and the impact upon your own world BUT unless you do this and accept death as an inevitable part of the cycle of life then it will remain very difficult to deal with. Remember it is easier to do somthing to extend life (i.e. CPR) than it is to do nothing adn allow the inevitable to occur.
  10. by   Pamelita
    Dealing with a patient's death was one of the hardest things I have to learn to do when I became a nurse. I still remember my first code and my patient died he was like 42, I was devastated and of course traumatized because I had to put an NG tube on him my first NG!!!! when he was coding!!!!
    Watching family members cry is hard. I always let them stay in the room as long as they want. Some just hug you and want to talk with you and pray with you for a little bit. I remember one time when a spanish family that the mother and the sister became histerical and started pulling his lines when he was coding and were almost fainting in the hallway. They put me in there to calm them down because I speak spanish. I had to almost carry them to the waiting room. It was amazing. Culture plays a lot in the way people handle death.
    I don't think it gets any easier because death is so real. However, I always think that when people die they are not in pain anymore and they are in a better place. I always think that their pain and suffering is gone.
    good luck girly!

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