What is the worst hardship/story you have ever seen/heard in your nursing career?

  1. 2 As nurses, we get to know our patients intimately. So I'm asking this question: what was the worst hardship you have ever heard about that your patient has gone through? Abuse? Torment? Homelessness? AIDS? Trauma? Personal illness? Children with no parents?

    Anything. I would love to hear your stories.
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  3. Visit  succinate profile page

    About succinate

    Joined Mar '13; Posts: 58; Likes: 17.

    87 Comments so far...

  4. Visit  GrnTea profile page
    34
    All of the above, and more. I had a guy whose brother slept under his bed in the hospital at every admission because neither of them had homes. We ordered him trays in the name of people who were NPO.

    The saddest ones, though, were back in the day of the early AIDS epidemic. I posted this on another thread last year.

    I'm old enough that I worked ICU when the AIDS epidemic was just beginning, and I was in the San Francisco-Seattle axis where we had a lot of gay patients anyway. I must say that it was a time when I was not proud of a lot of my colleagues. I would take my patient assignment of some poor man with what was then a fatal pneumocystis pneumonia (thank god we have better treatment now) and soon a fearful face would peek around the door with the unspoken question: Would this nurse let me in to see my lover who is dying? So many wouldn't, would shoo them away saying, "Family only!" as if the patient would have any family members who would even acknowledge his existence. It absolutely broke my heart. "Please come in," I would say. "I'm sure he'd be so happy to have you here. Would you like to help me bathe him?" "Can I?" "Of course you can, I'm sure he'd prefer you to me at this point!" The tenderness between these guys was indescribable.

    I had one experience, among so many, that was particularly heartbreaking. I was floated to a general surgery floor for a coupla summer days and for some reason we had a man with pulmonary failure on the "hot" side of the house, where the sun just baked the rooms all afternoon and no amount of air-conditioning would keep up with it. He wasn't my patient but I covered him when his nurse went to lunch, and his light went on. "Hey, Jen's at lunch. I'm GrnTea, what can I do for you?" He was lying in bed with the oxygen on, sweating and breathing with difficulty, and he said, "I'm just so hot. Can you help me?" So I got a basin of ice chips and alcohol (remember that? We did that before we had cooling blankets) and some washcloths and started to swab him down. And he started to cry. I stopped, startled, said, "What? What? Am I hurting you?" and he wept and wept and said (and this is where I start to cry now and every time I think of this story, thirty years later), "Nobody has touched me for three weeks." That poor man, in the hospital sick as a dog and knowing he was probably going to die very soon, and not one nurse had helped him bathe or eat or turn as he got weaker and weaker. It broke my heart.

    The next day I went in and asked to care for him again. He had been found dead on the floor of his room, having taken off his oxygen to go to the bathroom, probably because he thought nobody would answer his light, and probably desaturated enough to pass out. And they didn't find him until change of shift because nobody looked in on him all night.
    ICUman, mercurysmom, JustBeachyNurse, and 31 others like this.
  5. Visit  havehope profile page
    2
    I'm interested in the replies. This kind of stuff reminds me why I am in the nursing field. Those sweet little old ladies or gentlemen and stories like GrnTea mentioned makes it worth putting up with those few individuals that are rude and hateful not to mention violent.
    copeRN and lorirn58 like this.
  6. Visit  BeTheLight1145 profile page
    2
    wow that made my heart sink. That patient is no longer suffering. We can find peace in that. God bless you!
    GrnTea and JesusKeepMe like this.
  7. Visit  Not_A_Hat_Person profile page
    5
    My peds rotation was in LTC for children with brain injuries. One girl's birth story was heartbreaking. Her mother was in her 20s, and comatose in LTC for some reason. One day, an assessment revealed that she was 20+ weeks pregnant; the father turned out to be a staff member. She died in childbirth. The baby was born with a severe anoxic brain injury. The case made the news, and was still winding its way through the courts when I was in school.

    Another patient was hit by a car during a major custody battle. Her father had custody, and the first 5 pages of her chart were pictures of people who were not allowed to visit, including her mother and much of her family.
    copeRN, JustMe54, poppycat, and 2 others like this.
  8. Visit  Mandychelle79 profile page
    5
    I work in psych I get the pleasure of hearing horror stories every day.

    The ones that hurt me the worst are the ones whos families have written them off because they cant handle their illness.
    copeRN, GrnTea, IowaKaren, and 2 others like this.
  9. Visit  Lev <3 profile page
    0
    Quote from Not_A_Hat_Person
    My peds rotation was in LTC for children with brain injuries. One girl's birth story was heartbreaking. Her mother was in her 20s, and comatose in LTC for some reason. One day, an assessment revealed that she was 20+ weeks pregnant; the father turned out to be a staff member. She died in childbirth. The baby was born with a severe anoxic brain injury. The case made the news, and was still winding its way through the courts when I was in school.

    Another patient was hit by a car during a major custody battle. Her father had custody, and the first 5 pages of her chart were pictures of people who were not allowed to visit, including her mother and much of her family.
    So sad ;(
  10. Visit  DCrux, SN profile page
    3
    Quote from GrnTea
    The next day I went in and asked to care for him again. He had been found dead on the floor of his room, having taken off his oxygen to go to the bathroom, probably because he thought nobody would answer his light, and probably desaturated enough to pass out. And they didn't find him until change of shift because nobody looked in on him all night.
    Ugh. I have something in my eye right now

    Thank you for sharing that GrnTea. I'm old enough to remember that time in history and the absolute paranoia of people that had contracted AIDS -- people pulling children out of school (Ryan White), prejudice, and just plain misunderstanding. Mind you, I wasn't in the healthcare industry at the time and can only imagine how hard it must have been.

    Thanks for sharing.
    RHIA, RN, poppycat, and GrnTea like this.
  11. Visit  calinurse11 profile page
    3
    Huntingtons disease, its totally awful. Had a patient in his 30's who found out about the disease after he had 4 children. If I remember correctly, they were in the process of testing his kids, what a terrible feeling that must be.
  12. Visit  NurseDirtyBird profile page
    10
    Mine wasn't the patient's story, it was the family's story. I was working in LTC, and the patient was actively dying. We'd notified the family of his decline, and many showed up. We gave the family the standard treatment in those cases, they had coffee and snacks around the clock in the room, soft music playing, access to pastoral care, etc. I walked in at the beginning of my shift, and told them how wonderful it was that the patient could have his family there during his last moments. One woman, a daughter I presume, said, "Oh, yeah, we're just waiting. He beat and molested his children and wife until he was too disabled to, and we're just here to make sure he's dead."
    The family wasn't crying and upset about a parent dying, they were mourning their childhoods, and trying to close a chapter of their lives by watching their father die.

    I was shocked at first, but I can understand.

    I know there are nurses with far more abhorrent stories, especially in Peds. But this was one of my biggest challenges, both to process emotionally, and to be able to provide compassionate end of life care to this person. Death is the great equalizer.
    RHIA, RN, mebe5, canoehead, and 7 others like this.
  13. Visit  K+MgSO4 profile page
    6
    A guy who got high on cocaine jumped off a balcony, survived, he had a significant ABI his wife discovered she was pregnant. So she was suddenly faced with prospect of caring for 2 helpless people their baby and her 6`6" husband who was built like a tank. Thankfully he turned out to be the most docile person we were all terrified that this guy may be aggressive but he wasn't.

    A woman who drank a bottle of bleach in a suicide attempt survived, cuffed trache no oesophagus no stomach feed into dueodenum lived on the ward for a year psych nursing home wouldn't take her because she had a trache etc that they were not set up to deal with. General nursing home wouldn't take her because she was a suicide attempt and officially couldn't be 'cleared' as she couldn't talk. From eastern Europe couldn't read English or write in either English or her own language schooling had been interrupted by wars.

    They guy dying of cancer in one room in a community hospital his mother dying next door. He was unresponsive but when she died and we told him tears came from his eyes. That taught me to always assume your patients can hear you.
    RHIA, RN, mebe5, anotherone, and 3 others like this.
  14. Visit  dudette10 profile page
    8
    The woman with ALS who insisted on doing everything herself, but late one night when I went to check on her she was crying. She knew how she would die, and she just wanted to spare her kids from it.

    The 20-something breast cancer patient w/ a nonreconstructed double mastectomy who became addicted to painkillers after her surgery two years prior. She was a FF who would come in with withdrawal symptoms (abdominal pain) when her painkillers ran out, and no one would refill them. She tried rehab once, but after the inpatient part, she felt abandoned by her psychiatrist because he didn't follow throw on his outpatient rehab promises. And she relapsed. She had lost all trust in healthcare providers.

    The overinvolved family of a nonverbal pt w/ feeding tube, Foley, the works who would often be hospitalized for recurrent pneumonia. They would bring in plaques of his professional awards to set up around the room. The wife wouldn't even speak to the palliative care MD because she wouldn't dream of making him anything less than a full code.

    The French woman who was sick and tired of fighting cancer. She was so weak, she was a tiny little thing. Mind sharp as a tack. Wonderful sense of humor. Beautiful even through her cachectic frame. Made herself a DNR and put herself on hospice and was finally at peace when she did so as an inpatient.

    These might not be unusual cases but each one of them taught me something about the human condition. Good and bad and bittersweet.
    mebe5, Marisette, anotherone, and 5 others like this.
  15. Visit  prnqday profile page
    9
    12 year old admitted to Labor and Delivery to find out she's pregnant. Pregancy was a result from her being raped by her brother. Very sad.
    ICUman, mebe5, poppycat, and 6 others like this.


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