What is the best way to deal with losing a resident?

  1. What do you think is appropriate.... The sudden passing of one of our favorite residents last week has turned our workplace into a different place. Several people have been grieving the loss of this man and dealing with it in their own way. I used to bring him coffee every night and we'd invariably talk as I did his cares. Needless to say I became attached to him and I enjoyed our nightly coffee break every bit as much as he did. I was talking to the CNA who found him on the floor the night he died and we were shedding some tears for our friend we lost and a nurse we like to call the "wicked witch of the west wing" happens to walk by and berated us for our unprofessional and emotional behavior. It wouldn't normally bother me because this nurse has a history being coldhearted and uncaring about other people's feelings but other people have backed up her point with the same opinion. We were not crying in the hallway or anywhere where any other residents were around. How do you deal with loss on the job and do you have to be completely unemotional to be a succesful nurse? Please share you stories!!
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  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   RGN1
    No you do not have to be completely unemotional to be a nurse, that kind of nurse is not a good one.

    Of course you try & stay detached but every once in a while someone will come into your professional life who touches you in this sort of way & it's not a bad thing. It helps mold you as a nurse. I think sharing that coffee & having a cry with your co-worker was not something that you should have been told off for at all.

    I always found talking to co-workers who felt the same a great help when that happened. Allow yourself that cry, allow yourself some time to reflect but then, and here's the hard part, you have to move on. Remember him always with fondness but use what you learned when caring for him to help you care for others.
  4. by   rn/writer
    Quote from swthrt124
    What do you think is appropriate.... The sudden passing of one of our favorite residents last week has turned our workplace into a different place. Several people have been grieving the loss of this man and dealing with it in their own way. I used to bring him coffee every night and we'd invariably talk as I did his cares. Needless to say I became attached to him and I enjoyed our nightly coffee break every bit as much as he did. I was talking to the CNA who found him on the floor the night he died and we were shedding some tears for our friend we lost and a nurse we like to call the "wicked witch of the west wing" happens to walk by and berated us for our unprofessional and emotional behavior. It wouldn't normally bother me because this nurse has a history being coldhearted and uncaring about other people's feelings but other people have backed up her point with the same opinion. We were not crying in the hallway or anywhere where any other residents were around. How do you deal with loss on the job and do you have to be completely unemotional to be a succesful nurse? Please share you stories!!
    Your use of the word "residents" tells me you're speaking of LTC. This man wasn't just a "patient" to you. He lived there and you got to know him on a personal level. Of course, you had an emotional response when he died.

    Being professional doesn't mean you don't let yourself care. It means that you don't let your caring interfere with the job you were hired to do, and it doesn't sound like you were doing that at all.

    Even in an acute care setting, nurses cry when a patient they were close to dies. There isn't anything wrong with that. In fact, the relatives of patients often say that seeing the staff crying and crying with them is one of the most meaningful experiences they could have had. They value the thought that their loved one meant something to staff members.

    People who are uncomfortable with their own emotions have a difficult time seeing others express feelings. It's easier to criticize you than to examine the reasons behind their own discomfort. Many times, those most afraid of or resistant to emotional responses are actually people who have all kinds of emotions bottled up inside. Though they probably couldn't put it into words, they're terrified that if they let even a little bit escape, it would all come rushing out and overwhelm them. In general, these are people who carry around a tremendous amount of sadness, fear, and pain. It irks them to see others "fussing" and "bellyaching" over "trivial" matters. That's because they are suffering greatly and often don't even know it.

    Let yourself be human. Being professional means that you control your behavior in spite of your emotions. It doesn't mean you don't have any. I think any resident in your facility would want to be cared for by someone who would miss them enough to shed a few tears when they died.
  5. by   ktwlpn
    Many facilities have memorial services a few times each yr to celebrate the lives of the residents that have died.We have planted trees and shrubs in honor of co-workers and residents,also.We have had several donations made to various units for a luncheon in honor of the resident -I like this because it benefits everyone. Now that I am older I don't see their passing as a sad thing for them.I feel sorry for myself and their other friends and family because I know we'll I'll them s but they were lucky enough to live long lives and be well cared for by us and they are in a better place-without pain. In the future instead of bringing coffee for one resident why not do something for the entire unit? A cd of age appropriate music or a couple of watermelons-or how about burgers from the McDonalds dollar menu? I have done that a few times and the residents LOVED it...THey also enjoy visits from my cat or dog. (don't get me wrong-I 've had my special friends and will continue to do so but I do try to do things for everyone at the same time.Some of our people don't have anyone but us....God love 'em)
  6. by   leslie :-D
    Quote from swthrt124
    a nurse we like to call the "wicked witch of the west wing" happens to walk by and berated us for our unprofessional and emotional behavior. It wouldn't normally bother me because this nurse has a history being coldhearted and uncaring about other people's feelings but other people have backed up her point with the same opinion.
    who were the other people that supported this nurses' opinion?

    if you are new to ltc, then the reality of residents dying can be a shock to your system.
    initially people are fascinated but frightened of death.
    in ltc, there is the privilege of developing long-term and bonding relationships with some of your residents.
    i think the more you see, death will not seem as devastating, esp in ltc.
    of course you will grieve for those you personally befriended, but this sadness will be replaced with warm, appreciative memories.
    you will smile rather than weep.

    there are different reasons why nurses may appear callous.
    fear of feeling pain, vulnerability- what rn/writer talked about.
    plain old burnout- it happens.
    perceptions of what is appropriate and not- we are ea unique in personality & character. what may sensitize you, will do little for the next person.
    also in ltc, it is not as 'tragic' when a resident dies.
    it's old age; that's when ideally we will die.
    so reactions may not be as acute.

    but, whatever the reasons, you generally don't want to weep in public places.
    it's important to be available to your other pts or other residents who may be observing you.
    but no...nothing wrong at all in feeling human emotion.
    but according to many, there's a time and a place for grieving.

    wishing you peace.

    leslie
  7. by   VivaLasViejas
    It's the most natural thing in the world to cry and feel blue after someone with whom we've formed a bond leaves us. If I had a nickel for every tear I've shed for a departing soul, I'd be a rich woman indeed..........I've worked in LTC throughout a good portion of my career thus far, and while some deaths are easier to bear than others, I've never NOT felt at least a little sad at the passing of a human being.

    Yes, there is such a thing as being professional about it and maintaining our "cool" when we are needed to do so; we can't help anyone else if we completely lose it and go blubbering all over the building. But I'm far more concerned about the staff members who shut down on their emotions..........there are few things worse than a nurse who can't feel.

    I think it's entirely appropriate to hold a staff "debriefing" session, where all who care to can come and talk about the resident who passed on and how they feel about it (it might be wise to include your facility's social-service director, administrator, DON, and/or minister if you have one). I also see nothing wrong with attending the funeral, or holding a separate memorial for him at the facility if the family and management agree.

    Bless you for caring about this man, and for giving of yourself to him during these last days of his life. Never be afraid to reach out to your patients or residents; yes, they die and it hurts, but think of the joy this gentleman has brought you, and of the joy you brought to him.
  8. by   swthrt124
    Thank you so much to all who replied. Your responses reaffirmed my feeling for the nurse who made the comment. I never cried in the hallway and kept it together any time I was caring for another resident. I know that a death of a fellow resident brings to the other resident's mind their own mortality and I would never do anything to upset the other people I care for. I am well aware of my professional responsibility. This man had COPD and died suddenly probably from a heart attack. I am grateful that he didn't have to die slowly running out of oxygen and find solace in the fact that he isn't struggling for every breath he takes anymore. I guess I was just looking for a few professional people to back up my thinking that it is this other nurse who has the problem and not me. Thank you so much to all the replies.
  9. by   churdlpn
    at the ltc facility where i work we also recently had a resident we all were very close to pass away. it helped me a lot to go to the funeral home to pay my last respects. a fellow nurse i work with was crying at the desk, and a family member of another res saw her crying and asked what was wrong. when she told him we had just lost a close resident he said it made him that much more confident to have his mother be taken care of by her since he knew she became "family" with the people she takes care of. i should mention the family member was of a new resident that was just admitted.
  10. by   P_RN
    You do what you need to do. Crying when you lose a close friend, relative, patient or resident is totally acceptable. Running around hysterically is not.

    The other nurse expressed what she felt OR what she thought was appropriate. My sincere condolences to you and your staff on the loss of your friend.

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