I cried in the chapel for the first time... - page 2

by tokebi 7,377 Views | 21 Comments

In the past ten years of nursing, I never cried for a patient. It's not that I am cold or unfeeling. I do often get comments from patients how "nice" or "gentle" I am. While I do care greatly, I just don't get overcome with... Read More


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    Quote from tnbutterfly

    For more insight on nurses who cry, you might want to read When Nurses Cry.
    Thank you for pointing me to the article. I have read it before, but re-reading it this time touched me very deeply, in light of my recent experience and self-reflections.
    Esme12 and tnbutterfly like this.
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    I'm a hospice CNA, and I think you handled it fine. That's one of those times where we are utterly powerless to make any difference in anything at all. Watching someone go through the stages of grief is painful, humbling, and challenges even the most socially apt among us. Watching someone come to terms with their own mortality and start dealing with the fact that they REALLY ARE GOING TO DIE FROM THIS shakes us all to the core, no matter how often we see it. Because it's always the first time for the person going through it. And it's painful and horrible and so deeply personal.

    I have great social skills and I still struggle with how to correctly approach patients and families at such moments. Because what was right for the last one isn't right for this one. And won't be right for the next one.

    You were respectful but present. You were compassionate and available without being obtrusive. You did just fine.
    canoehead likes this.
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    I just get down at eye-level, grab a Kleenex box, put my hand on their shoulder or arm and say, "I'm sorry you have to go through this. How can I help you?" And then simply respect whether they want to cry or be to themselves. I usually conclude by saying, "we are going to take good care of you today. Please let me know what I can do for you." As much as I try to be rock-solid with my emotions in my job, I do allow myself to be human and grieve with those who grieve, give comfort to those are wronged and bring hope to those in despair. Last week I triaged a man with 2/10 left chest discomfort for one week which he ignored because he's been under a lot of stress lately. I've found that when a patient verbalizes they've "been under a lot of stress lately" that they usually are waiting to break down and need someone to talk to. So I responded with my usual "things tough at work?" "No, my dad is dying and I'm just waiting for a call any day now from the hospice nurse." Then 30 sec later as I'm getting vitals, his cell phone rings. It's the hospice nurse. He hangs up and says " I gotta go. My dad is dying today and I need to drive 5 hrs to get there. " Talk about awkward. What do you say to someone who just discovered this is there last opportunity in life to see the person who brought them into this world. I handed him a Kleenex, took one for myself, said how sorry I was for him and then tactfully convinced him (out of serious concern for AMI) to give me 4 min to do an EKG. 5 min later he was on my monitor with a MD consulting cardiology. He went straight to the cath lab. And I wondered how the doc was going to break it to him. And he sat down at his eye level and said "I really want you to be with your dad today, but your heart is not getting enough oxygen right now and maybe this is your dads way of looking out for you " the man completed accepted his words and in between an 18 gauge, o2, nitro, ASA, more nitro and the AMR transport he opened up about his dads life and actually looked less stressed than when he arrived. Sometimes people just need to know you care. And even though we might feel awkward, they don't know we feel awkward. A few simple things and a few short phrases can help them so much. I used to feel uncomfortable because I felt like I needed to have an answer, a solution to everything. Now I realize most people don't want an answer. They just need someone to listen and acknowledge what they are going through. It's a great thing to be a nurse. I hope I never take it for granted.
    etymed, kismetRN, GrnTea, and 2 others like this.
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    Dear OP, God bless you. I think you did just fine. Thank you for caring.
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    Just remember,"the golden rule," it always puts everything into proper perspective for me, and that is, "treat all ppl the way you desire to be treated." Shine!!!
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    I think you handle the situation beautifully. You asked if there was anything you could do and there wasn't. It wasn't a stupid question despite what you think because it showed you cared. Regardless of whether you're a warm-fuzzy person or not, you're still a nurse and it's your job to show patients you care about them. It doesn't mean you have to get mushy and cry with them but you do have to be somewhat sensitive in those kind of situations. Please don't think this next part is about you, I know you said, and I quoted you, "I do often get comments from patients how "nice" or "gentle" I am." But I have ran into and have dealt with nurses out there who have personalities of wet dishrags and who are grouchy and mean. I mean the ones who come in deal with their patients and leave, They chose the wrong profession. I'm not saying they don't have emotions when they leave but patients and families depend on you for support, emotionally, and you have to listen to them when they talk. It's our job, bottom line. Especially children, they're scared to death and to have a nurse come in and act like a cold fish only makes things worse and ticks the parents off. Don't most nurses complain about the doctors we work for and their bedside manor and what we have to deal with and listen to patients, parents and family members complain about how the doc was rude???? I know I do and it gets old fast. So I think what you said was great, you didn't have to change who you were too much but gave enough to show you care. And you asked, "Would you like me to stay with you, or leave you alone for a while?" would be fine. If you don't have time, you can also say, "I need to check on a patient but I will come back and stay with you when I'm done if you would like." If it aggravates them so be it, but I don't think most people would be. I think they would be grateful by the gesture. One of the thoughts I try to keep in mind when I'm at work is, how would I want that nurse to treat me, my husband, my children or family member???? So I try to treat my patients the same way. With little adjustments depending on the patients personality, some are more reserved than others. But you get my point.
    kismetRN likes this.
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    Thank you cpbuttercup.

    Part of my problem is that I over-analyze what I should say and how I should act, and even all kinds of possible repercussions! I think I need to be more confident once I act on what was the best course of action for the situation. It's just... so darn hard especially with patients who don't talk or express themselves openly...

    To be honest, I do feel a little jealousy when I see a coworker with a vibrant, spontaneous personality cracking jokes and making them laugh. And then, I would take over and it's all somber...

    As you can see, I'm not the most confident nurse you see...
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    Quote from tokebi

    To be honest, I do feel a little jealousy when I see a coworker with a vibrant, spontaneous personality cracking jokes and making them laugh. And then, I would take over and it's all somber...
    ditto.. but then I know I just have to accept myself, If i seem to be a bORING companion then so be it..

    “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” - Mark Twain
    Last edit by kismetRN on Sep 11, '13
    CountyRat, tokebi, and GrnTea like this.
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    Quote from tokebi
    Part of my problem is that I over-analyze what I should say and how I should act, and even all kinds of possible repercussions!
    First of all, you handled a painful situation extremely well. There was no more that you could have said or done than what you did. Which leads to . . .

    Second, the reason that you "over-analyze" is that you are under a delusion common to those of us in the healing professions; we think that, in these situations, there is a "right" thing to do, but we recognize that what we say is not mattering enough. Here is why . . .

    We think that we matter. We think that if we just said the right words we would relieve their pain. No one has that power, not even those super stars that always look like they know what to do. They donít. There is nothing to do. We are just a piece of scenery. We have no special power. We have only one thing: we stay there

    We stay there, and let the patient feel what he is feeling without having to be alone. We stay there. They cry, and we are there. They express terror or rage, and we are there. We understand that their pain is not a problem, it is what they are supposed to feel; and we are not a solution; we are just a prop in the story of the worst day of their lives. We stay there so that they do not have to be alone unless they want to be. We do not offer solutions because there is no problem to solve. The way they feel, the pain they feel, is exactly the right thing for them to be feeling. By staying there (or leaving, if they ask us to) we show them that we are not afraid of their pain or repelled by their tears. We see and hear their pain, but we are not afraid, we are not repelled.

    That's all.

    And one last thing; I am proud of you.
    Last edit by CountyRat on Sep 19, '13
    Esme12, kismetRN, and tokebi like this.
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    CountyRat, I sincerely thank you for your insight.

    I had been told something very similar in the past. How could I have forgotten this? I once talked to a counselor after witnessing a crime. I was so hung up on feelings of guilt for the fact that I couldn't do anything for the victim bleeding out. The counselor pointed out if I wasn't placing undue amount of self-importance when in fact what I did or didn't do probably didn't matter in the greater scheme of things.

    A hero who saves lives.
    An angel who banishes pain.

    We all have these ideas, I suppose. Also, I think, it is good to have an ideal to strive for.

    But, the reality is, as you said:

    Quote from CountyRat
    we are just a prop in the story of the worst day of their lives.
    That is so... poignant.
    Esme12 and CountyRat like this.


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