As a nurse will I be exposed to dead patients a lot? - page 3

by Mrs.Davis

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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 just did my first post mortem care a few weeks ago...granted I wasn't there when she passed, the charge nurse took several of my classmates to pull lines and foleys etc...it was an interesting experience - and has made me more comfortable...up till now (I'm in my 3rd of 4 semesters) I haven't seen any death...I've seen one code (respiratory - she never lost her pulse) and a few RRT's and I was more nervous about them!

    (although I do have to say the store room where I work as an aide has a supply of body bags - that was a bit unnerving at first!)
    Fiona59 likes this.
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    Quote from tamadrummer
    I have been a nurse for 3 months in a pcu/icu and have coded 5 (none made it), had one die 1.5h into my shift, and have helped with postmortem care on 4 others. Death can be dignified and a very important part of nursing care because of the people left behind. Nursing care does not end when the patient in the bed stops living. We are tasked with unbelievable responsibility to the patient and family. Doctors get to go In and out, we are left with the rest. This is a real part of nursing ( at least in the area I live in, in florida)

    Sent from my iPhone using allnurses.com
    This is so true. A sweet sweet baby boy I had come to love died recently. I had a deep bond with him and his family. When he finally passed it was me who went in there to tell the family, doctor showed up about half an hour later to officially declare him. I spent my 12 hour shift assisting his family with things like hand/foot prints, cutting locks of hair, bathing & dressing him, taking pictures, and when they were finally ready to go, I rocked him in my arms so they didn't have to leave him lying alone in a bed. When they were gone, I gave him another wash over (he had bled quite a bit while family was holding), shrouded him, wrapped him in a clean blanket and carried him to the morgue in my arms. While this day was emotionally draining and difficult for me, I am glad that I got to be the one to be there for his family and to take care of him in his final moments.

    I work in a PICU with prior experience in a NICU. Sadly we do see death, maybe not as much as in the adult world, but frequently enough. I am part of my hospitals bereavement team and I will say I enjoy and find it an honor to be able to take care of these children and families in their final moments. It is never easy, nor do I think it will ever get easier, I have never once not shed at least a few tears for my tiny patients who pass.

    As you go through school and into your career at some point, no matter where you work, you are likely to experience death at least once or twice. You will come to figure out how you deal with it in your own way. My suggestion though, as others have said, would be to start your career in a place that does not see death daily, so that you are able to sort through your own feelings about it without it staring you in the face on a day to day basis.
    Fiona59 likes this.
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    I work on a post op floor so I see death rarely but lately we've been getting CMO (comfort measures only) patients from the neuro ICU. They are difficult but these deaths are expected and the families are (usually) prepared for it so it makes it a little easier.
    Fiona59 likes this.
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    Quote from umcRN

    I work in a PICU with prior experience in a NICU. Sadly we do see death, maybe not as much as in the adult world, but frequently enough. I am part of my hospitals bereavement team and I will say I enjoy and find it an honor to be able to take care of these children and families in their final moments. It is never easy, nor do I think it will ever get easier, I have never once not shed at least a few tears for my tiny patients who pass.
    What do you do as part of a bereavement team?
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    Quote from DizzyLizzyNurse
    What do you do as part of a bereavement team?
    Basically just make sure each unit has the resources it needs to deal with pediatric deaths. Each unit also has a bereavement council (ideally). Unlike in the adult world, when little ones die families may not have had the chance to do a whole lot of "memory making" especially with infants. We keep units supplied with arts and crafts for hand/foot prints and molds, "Beads of courage", blankets & clothes, resources for siblings, we keep in contact with volunteer photography groups who do end of life photography for children and other things like that. More importantly we make sure nurses know what the resources are and what kinds of things to offer families in these situations. Every nurse is going to have that "first" time and we want to make sure there is a few people on every unit at all times prepared to help. Again, unlike in the adult world, families often want to be the ones giving the bath and dressing the child, they want to take photos, even after death, they want to hold their child. We just try to make sure we keep our supplies up and share any new ideas we may hear of.
    DizzyLizzyNurse likes this.
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    It definitely depends on the speciality. I would not suggest oncology if you are wary of death. When I worked in the hospital, I worked pedi neuro/neurosurgery/neuro-onc. The majority of our deaths were the oncology population though every now and then other patients would die too. A decent portion of the patients went home to die with hospice but some parents didn't want their kids to die at home and chose to remain inpatient. We'd sometimes go months without a comfort care patient and then we'd have 3 or 4 back to back.

    Death is a part of life and most definitely a part of nursing. You probably wouldn't see too many dead bodies if you were a school nurse or a nurse in a primary care setting. You'd still have patients who die (my high school had 3 deaths in as many years but no one died at school) but you wouldn't necessarily have to care for the remains.
    DizzyLizzyNurse likes this.
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    Our health authority has a "no empty bed" policy. So any compassionate care coming in from the community will be sent to which ever acute care unit that has a private room available. If it's your room you get the patient regardless of your specialty.

    Nobody dies in our ICU, they transfer them off to the surgical units if they can.

    Sometimes it sucks to be a floor nurse.
    loriangel14 likes this.


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