As a nurse will I be exposed to dead patients a lot? - page 2

by Mrs.Davis

Hello, I am currently a nursing student and I am confused on if I really want to continue going to school for this. Today in class my professor had some bones from a 12 year old boy and was using them to teach us about the... Read More


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    I work in med surg and we get comfort care only pts a few times a week. Icu, er,oncology, hospice ( obviously) will have more codes and deaths. why does the instructor cary around real bones?
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    3+ years in psych and I have never encountered a corpse. I've encountered a few patients in the process of trying to make themselves into corpses though, which could be just as disturbing to you (OP), if not more, as finding a dead body would be.
    Fiona59, KelRN215, DizzyLizzyNurse, and 1 other like this.
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    I dealt with death 4x back to back before I went to nursing school. During clinicals my 1st patient death was tough but I handled it well since I had just gone thru so much personally (the 4 back to back). During school I encountered death 2x. So far on the field 0x. It's a part of life and something we all have to deal with. The best thing you can do is accept the reality of it and do your best to be there for the patients family.
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    Death is very tough for me as well. In some cases it really is for the best. In others it isn't fair and it sucks. That is the part that is hard for me.
    tokmom likes this.
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    Quote from stopthepenguins6
    You can never guarantee that you won't see death, as we are healthcare providers and things do happen, but you can help to minimize your level of exposure, as it's all in where you work. If you work in a critical setting, an ICU, an ER, hospice, oncology, etc., you can expect to see some death. But if you go somewhere like orthopedics, med/surg, labor and delivery, things like that, you will typically have transferred your patient out before things get that critical. The risk is still there...even hip fractures can go bad quickly, and babies can get into distress during the birth process, but those events are few and far between on a typically healthier, lower acuity floor.

    When I worked on an ortho floor, I never saw death. Now that I'm in the ICU, I see it frequently. It was scary for me at first, and it was due a lot to my own insecurities about death. I had never dealt with a dead body, but now that I've had a few patients that died, it's easier. It's still a hard thing to do...you never get over the respect for human life. But it's easier to be in the room and not be uncomfortable at the fact that I'm bathing a deceased person now that I've had some exposure.

    Was it the fact that the bones were from a child that got to you? If so, avoid pediatrics. Or was it just the fact that they were bones? Figuring out exactly what it was that got to you is key, because then you can figure out what to do to fix it, whether it's just a need for more familiarity, dealing with your own fears, or a weak stomach.
    Med/Surg? I have seen a lot of death in med/surg. Especially with areas of higher elderly populations and those that have oncology mixed in. We had 2 just this last week. One that was 84 and another 102.

    OP, death is not easy to deal with, when it's the young people or IMO, tragic. The ones that are elderly...well...many of them are tired and ready to go. Yeah, it's still difficult, but doable. Those are the type of pt's some nurses get satisfaction taking care of because it's comfort care. Doing the small things to ease pain and suffering. I have had pt's families tell me thank you for taking such good care of their loved one until and even after their last breath. Those moments make this job worthwhile and make me go back to work another day.
    Last edit by tokmom on Oct 6, '12
    Fiona59 and anotherone like this.
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    I work in LTC. Death can be a blessing. If you believe in Quality of life vs Quantity of life, it just may not be so bad. I think it all depends on the situation. Heck, even in LTC, some really get to you. I truly am a believer in Quality of life.
    Fiona59, DizzyLizzyNurse, tokmom, and 1 other like this.
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    Quote from tokmom
    Med/Surg? I have seen a lot of death in med/surg. Especially with areas of higher elderly populations and those that have oncology mixed in. We had 2 just this last week. One that was 84 and another 102.
    .
    Apologies, with the med/surg floor I worked on, I saw maybe 1 hospice/comfort measures patient every few months. I didn't think about the fact that maybe that was unique to my floor .
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    I agree with the other posters here. It does depend on which area of nursing you are in. When I worked hospice for 2 years, I had several patients die but they were expected deaths. It's still sad and hard for the families and staff though. I have held patient's hands while they died. When I worked med/surge and ortho/neuro, we had a couple of codes where patients died. Fortunately it didn't happen very often. When I worked rehabilitation, I rarely saw patients die.

    Good assessment skills come into play when you work in any area of nursing. If you see any serious changes in your patient or any decline in their condition, ask for another nurses's opinion about your patient (especially your charge nurse or house supervisor nurse), or utilize your hospital's rapid response team. Call that doctor, get the patient transferred, whatever you have to do to prevent the patient getting to that point unless it is an expected death (such as with hospice). In that case you keep the patient comfortable, provide caring and support to them and their family, and keep things as dignified for them as possible.
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    I did LTC for 10 years. Obviously I saw a lot of death and as someone else said, a lot of times in LTC it's a blessing. Now I work in med surge. My floor specializes in oncology and has a few hospice rooms so I do see death or dying a lot at work now too. We've also coded some post surgical pts since I've been there. I think pretty much most nursing specialties see death. Some are less than others though. Death bothered me a lot at first. Now it only really bothers me if it's someone younger or it's unexpected. In school, I found the unit on child abuse a lot more disturbing than death to be honest.
    Fiona59 likes this.
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    I see more people who probably ought to be dead or look dead than actually are. In fact in nine months I have seen one dead body.
    sapphire18 and Fiona59 like this.


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