First post-mortem today...

  1. 10
    What a day! I know my AN nurses & students will understand.

    When I arrived on the floor for my last patient care clinical day at the hospital, I was asked by my prof if I would do my first post-mortem care.

    I kept a professional demeanor throughout, but after it was all over, it really hit me hard. My patient was only a few years older than me, so it really hit home.

    My instructor had me accompany my patient to the morgue. It's surreal waking through the hospital with the morgue cart. It was very discreet and respectful. The average person in the hall would have never suspected. It's just left me thinking about mortality and the importance of saying "I love you" to your family.
    Sand_Dollar, syrinx, poppycat, and 7 others like this.
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  3. 7 Comments so far...

  4. 8
    I had a similar experience when I started working oncology. In my 3 years of being a nurse, I have never experienced a code, but I have done more post-mortem care than most RNs my age. We also saw our fair share of young folks die--some of them younger than me.

    Best advice I can give you is to listen to your gut on this. You're already feeling the significance of life--the importance of valuing people and time. Those are things that most people pass their days without thinking about. You're blessed, whether you feel like it or not, because you've been shown what a gift this life is and how fast our time here goes.

    Here's a random movie reference. In The Village by M. Night Shamylan, the community elder always starts the prayers with, "We are grateful for the time we have been given". That always used to strike me as odd because you don't often hear people allude to the short, fragile nature of our lives here, but it's true--we have very little control over when we enter and exit this world. It would behoove us to be grateful, depsite our circumstances, and make the most of what we have.

    All the best to you as you absorb this new experience, OP. It can change you for the better if you let it!
    SnowShoeRN, SopranoKris, Altra, and 5 others like this.
  5. 5
    One of the things about nursing is to make us appreciate the little things.
    SopranoKris, poppycat, amoLucia, and 2 others like this.
  6. 3
    I've had to do two post mortems in the last two weeks. They were also the only two of my (rather short) nursing career. Both had been my patients both on that day and the previous day. I think post-mortem care is not easy under any circumstance, whether you've ever cared for the patient before or not. Part of me hopes that it does get a little easier as time goes on, but then again, like Esme pointed out, it makes you appreciate the little things, so maybe it shouldn't get easier.

    Where I work, the patient care techs usually do post mortem care, but somehow it didn't feel right to me to just give that part of my patient's care up, so I participated both times. As hard as it was, I'm glad I was able to give both patients the last bit of care that was within my control.
  7. 1
    On the first day of my ICU Sr Practicum I got to participate in my first code. The patient came into the ED as a code and I got to go because my preceptor was the ICU charge. Not only did I get to assist throughout (it went on for 3.5 hours!) but because the patient ended up in our ICU and under my preceptors care, I was also part of the team in the ICU. The patient did not make it and because my preceptor had to take care of the business side of things, I took care of most of the post mortem care.

    I felt heartbroken for this family and did everything I could to treat my patient with respect and reverence, just as I would want for my own family member. I felt it was an honor to take care of her and to be part of trying to save her life. Another nurse took the pt to the morgue but once it quieted down, it hit me hard too. I had tears rolling down my cheeks, not for the patient, but for sudden, devastating loss for her family.

    As a student, it's easy to have a romantic idea of being part of a code. Adrenaline pumping, orders given, bringing a patient back from the brink. But a code is far from romantic, it's tragic. I was thankful for being included in that whole experience and will always regard it as a special memory; a personal reminder for me to never take those I love for granted because they might be taken away unexpectedly.
    SopranoKris likes this.
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    Thank you all for your thoughtful & insightful replies!
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    Quote from Sand_Dollar
    Another nurse took the pt to the morgue but once it quieted down, it hit me hard too. I had tears rolling down my cheeks, not for the patient, but for sudden, devastating loss for her family...
    I was thankful for being included in that whole experience and will always regard it as a special memory; a personal reminder for me to never take those I love for granted because they might be taken away unexpectedly.
    I've been out of inpatient work for a couple of years now, but I can truly say that I've never had a death where I haven't gotten a little teary. And usually there is outright crying. Not uncontrollable sobbing, but tucking myself somewhere quiet and crying for a little bit.

    I think that what we get to experience as nurses - the births, the emotional vulnerability, the fragility of life, the deaths - is so astoundingly beautiful and profound that how can we not sometimes weep?
  10. 1
    A patient of mine passed just yesterday. I was the last person he spoke to earlier in the day. The post mortem care is but a task to me, the hard part is what leads up to that point, especially if the family is present. It would take a cold heart indeed not to be emotionally drained by the act of dying
    SoldierNurse22 likes this.


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