Should Student Get the Dead Baby From the Morgue? - page 2

This has been bothering me since Tuesday, so I finally decided to start a thread. At my clinical site a student is working on the oncology floor. A woman had cancer that had spread everywhere, and... Read More

  1. by   Mimi2RN
    I don't have a problem with a student going to the morgue, but she shouldn't have to go alone.

    We always have company on trips like that. We have a little cold room that holds two gurnies, and on a shelf is a baby bassinet. One person hold the door open while the other nurse puts the baby in the bassinet (or takes it out, if mom wants to see it again).

    Usually the only occupants would be the ones waiting for autopsy, as most go straight to the funeral home. It's not a pleasant trip, but would be a little creepy on your own. I would hope that the instructor DID go with the student!
  2. by   nursern20
    To answer the question frankly, yes. It is part of the job and it is part of the learning experience. Now along with this, there are many things to consider in this situation since its a very sensitive subject. I'm glad the instuctor in this case kind of gave the student an option of declining the task, however a more initmate discussion should have taken place between instuctor and student to see if the student was mentally/emotionally prepared considering it was the very first week of clinical. Also, I agree that if the student was up for it, either another student, the instructor, or the patient's shift nurse should have accompanied him/her. In general, the more experience a student gets, the more they will be able to handle. I hope i made at least some sense
    Last edit by nursern20 on Oct 21, '05
  3. by   SoulShine75
    Quote from Marie_LPN
    Someone should go with her to get it.
    I agree. That's just.........awful. I'm not sure I could do that without showing my emotions.
  4. by   mozartthebear
    I think there is an ethical delema here that has been overlooked. I agree that facing death is a part of nursing. At some point we all have to wrap up a body and visit the morgue. It is one thing to ask a nursing student to be a part of that process. It is a totally different matter to ask a nursing student to take part in handling a 17 month old baby that has been "terminated." Not everyone agrees with abortion. I don't think it was a wise decision of this instrucor to assume that the student would be ok with this. The issue isnt just about facing death. So sorry to hear this happened.
  5. by   fergus51
    Quote from mozartthebear
    I think there is an ethical delema here that has been overlooked. I agree that facing death is a part of nursing. At some point we all have to wrap up a body and visit the morgue. It is one thing to ask a nursing student to be a part of that process. It is a totally different matter to ask a nursing student to take part in handling a 17 month old baby that has been "terminated." Not everyone agrees with abortion. I don't think it was a wise decision of this instrucor to assume that the student would be ok with this. The issue isnt just about facing death. So sorry to hear this happened.
    True enough, but as far as I know nurses don't have a right to decline to care for patients who have elective terminations. This may have been a really good opportunity for the student to learn to work with patients whose choices wouldn't necessarily mirror hers, just like us real nurses have to do everyday.

    OP, what did the student feel about this? That's the real question. If she was ok doing it and told her instructor she would do it, then I don't see the problem.
  6. by   Grace Oz
    Quote from fergus51
    True enough, but as far as I know nurses don't have a right to decline to care for patients who have elective terminations. This may have been a really good opportunity for the student to learn to work with patients whose choices wouldn't necessarily mirror hers, just like us real nurses have to do everyday.

    OP, what did the student feel about this? That's the real question. If she was ok doing it and told her instructor she would do it, then I don't see the problem.
    Actually Fergus, nurses DO have the right to refuse to care for patients if they have a religious or moral objection to any particular procedure. That's certainly the case here in Oz, anyway.
  7. by   fergus51
    Quote from Grace Oz
    Actually Fergus, nurses DO have the right to refuse to care for patients if they have a religious or moral objection to any particular procedure. That's certainly the case here in Oz, anyway.
    They do in Canada and the US as well, but this person was not being asked to participate in an abortion. Post-abortion care is not considered any differently than post-appendectomy care so nurses can't refuse those patients as far as I know (I should have clarified that in my post). I work NICU and won't participate in circumcisions, but I have no grounds to object to caring for the baby afterwards (and no desire to).
    Last edit by fergus51 on Oct 22, '05
  8. by   Gennaver
    Quote from tencat
    ... and the parents of the fetus decided that they would release the fetus, but they wanted someone to go down and get it and bring it up to them so they could get some closure. The instructor told the student "Well, you don't HAVE to go, but you really should do it since you're the one taking care of her."
    ......I wondered what others thought.
    Hi Tencat,

    The only people whose feelings I would have been considering at that point would be for the bereaved parents. In my opinion, the nurse instructor dropped the ball even though she gave the student an 'out'. The nurse instructor could have made such a non-issue of it by saying, "the parents want closure, I will go and get the fetus from the morgue, why not come with so you can see what it is like in a hospital morgue?" I do not recall ever 'having' to go to a morgue by myself, (even though when it was pretty empty, I have).

    my two cents
    Gen
  9. by   SKM-NURSIEPOOH
    in my not so humble opinion, i feel that this wasn't an appropriate assignment for students' *first* clinical....period. true, the op doesn't specify whether or not this was their a *first* clinical day, week, rotation, or day, week, month in this particular area (oncology)...that still remains to be seen. the way i read it...it's their *first* clinical experience ever...meaning first time out clinically.

    that being said, i agree with both rn/writer & prmenrs point of view. firstly, this is a new to practice student...one typically isn't assigned such patients on their first clinical experience. just how prepared was this student for such a emotional, stressful, & sensitive assignment? how much practice did this person have in therapeutic communication? students have labs for practicum such as psycho-nursing tasks....but how about dealing with the emotional aspect...especially so early on clinically. nobody ever inserts foleys without practice in the lab first...nobody ever gives injections without passing medical calculations first...so why should any student be given such a monumental assignment their first clinical outing? it's a cop-out not to mention cruel to say that they (students) will have to get this experience at some point in their nursing career. everybody will be given difficult assignments at *sometime* in their career....but my point is that this student was in no way at that point in *their* career. heck...they don't even have a *career* yet...& inappropriate assignments like this will discourage people from staying.

    *new to practice nurses* are given more time to orient to their units, especially those critical care units. they're given primary preceptors & resource nurses to collaborate with until they're able to run on their own. the op didn't state that the student in question would be given the assignment without any assistance from the primary nor did they indicate that the instructor wouldn't be walking the student through this experience, but what was inferred was that the instructor gave the student an ultimatum . i came away with the feeling that the student didn't *have* to do it...but the instructor would be *disappointed* if they didn't. since this instructor is grading this student...i'm under the impression that the student did it only because they felt they were between a rock & a hard place. that's the part that get burns my cookies too prmenrs . students are typically afraid to stand-up for themselves...especially in the beginning. most don't want to rock the boat & are scared to death of those grading them ...those in authority. i bet the student felt exploded because the instructor made their suggestion seem like extortion. mind you...this is the way i read the op's passage & it may not have been this way at all...but that's what i inferred from it. i'm eagerly awaiting the op's updated post so that we can get the details of the situation at hand.

    then there's matter of the parents & their feelings. were they asked if they wanted to have a student nurse involved in this proceeding? it can be very trying emotionally to be patients in a "teaching" hospital & assigning students to care for them in such personally trying times such as this one was. i'm not at all convinced that this abortion was elective & am leaning more on the side of not & as far as we know...the infant could've been affected by the cancer or it's treatment. the parents may not have had a choice in the matter & were terribly distraught. telling having a student nurse present may add to their stress & it may be intrusive to say the least. i've seen patients putting-up a good face so to not put stress on students & i'm just concern that the parents' feelings may not have been fully thought-out. often times nursing students are used as extra hands & i sense this one was used in this matter as well. again...there's nothing specifically stated to that affect...i just get that feeling.

    nurses aren't robots & just shut off their emotions just because they must be professional. empathy goes a long way in this field. nurse have to *learn* how to deal with their emotions/beliefs & not let them interfere with their nursing care...however...the operative word is *learn*. nurses have the time to develop this skill albeit they work on it all the time...they still have to develop it & that take time & practice. just there are novice to expert nurses, there's novice to expert nursing students. doesn't everybody remember their first day out on clinical & how scared, intimated, & frighting it was? then think back to your last clinical day & how different you were. the difference was like night & day. on your last day of clinical, you were able to take report, do your assessment, give your meds, do your treatments, take-off orders (or understand how to), delegate to uaps, know the unit inside & out...etc. a lot of time went by between that *first* & *last* clinical experiences & much experience gained. time, experience, & good judgment is the point i think here. i personally feel the instructor didn't give this assignment appropriately....not for a *first* clinical...sorry.

    cheers,
    moe
  10. by   Tweety
    Quote from mozartthebear
    I think there is an ethical delema here that has been overlooked. I agree that facing death is a part of nursing. At some point we all have to wrap up a body and visit the morgue. It is one thing to ask a nursing student to be a part of that process. It is a totally different matter to ask a nursing student to take part in handling a 17 month old baby that has been "terminated." Not everyone agrees with abortion. I don't think it was a wise decision of this instrucor to assume that the student would be ok with this. The issue isnt just about facing death. So sorry to hear this happened.

    The instructor said the student didn't have to go. If she/he had moral objections, that was the chance to speak up. Seems like the student did it out of fear of standing up to the instructor and having it affect her grade. If she/he had strong moral objections and did it anyway, then that's not the insturctors fault.
  11. by   Tweety
    Quote from skm-nursiepooh
    in my not so humble opinion, i feel that this wasn't an appropriate assignment for students' *first* clinical....period. cheers,
    moe

    good post moe, greater care should have been taken in making the assignment. a women eaten up with cancer who just terminated a pregancy probably was not a good idea for a first clinical. but perhaps when the assignment was made, they didn't realize that couple would be asking to see the baby.
  12. by   tencat
    Thanks for all your input. I just have to say that it wasn't me that had this happen, but a fellow student. I just wanted to hash it all out and find out what others thought about it. I think that a lot of you are right when you say that it's something we will have to do when we are nurses, so why not begin now? But just a thought: I wonder if the 'sink or swim' idea causes burnout later. Just because that's the way it's done and maybe some of us had it done to us doesn't mean it's the best way to handle teaching someone how to do something. I think it is helpful if students could be taught ways to handle their emotions and reactions to situations like this one, or at least talk to seasoned nurses to find out how they've handled them and continued to be nurses. People aren't just 'born' with the ability to handle stress and stressful situations. I don't think it means you're 'weak' if you feel that a situation is stressful and don't know how to process it. Most of us have not ever had an experience like this one before, and some of us will be able to handle it better than others. JMHO.
  13. by   Fun2, RN, BSN
    If the student was asked to get "THE BABY" (not "IT"), the student should feel honored.

    I wouldn't want to, and it would probably freak me out on my first clinical (if it doesn't always freak me out). However, I would feel honored that the parents asked me, a student, to get their child that they so hoped to have for a life time, for them to grieve.

    I do agree with the fact that the student shouldn't have to go alone, the morgue is a creepy place enough just being in the lobby, let alone having to go through "the doors".

    I'd probably cry all the way back to the patient's room.

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