Hi! I am not new to this site but it has been quite a while since I last signed in. I thought I was not going to go into the nursing field but have re-considered. So I have a ton of questions coming your way! Firstly, I would like to know if nursing school teaches you how to handle a dying or deceased patient, because I have never had to be exposed to a dying family member before (except for my grandpa who was already deceased at the funeral home and I barely even knew him) and I'm concerned how awkward and stressful this is going to be.
Thanks in advance.
Mar 1, '14
by Mr. Murse, RN
It's one of those things that you can't learn in a text book. I mean yes, you can learn post-mortem care (cleaning the body, tagging, etc) but you can never be taught how to emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually handle death.
My only advice is to just be aware and conscientious of it. One day, you will most likely have a patient die (depending on where you end up working), it happens. Expect it.
The hardest part, in my opinion, is dealing with the family. They are the ones whose reactions will really affect you most. I remember my very first day of clinical, having never worked in a hospital before, I had an 80 something year old patient who the nurse told me at report "could go any time now". While the patient was completely unconscious, the daughter was at the bedside weeping the whole day as I fumbled through my first few hours in the medical field. Fortunately, she did not pass on my shift, but it showed me that the family can sometimes require more care than the patient.
That's the other reason text books could never tell you how to handle deaths: every one will be different. Sometimes the patient will be DNR, asleep and alone in the room, you may go in to check something and find them already gone without any sound or warning. Other times there will be family in the room who freak out when they realize their loved one has passed. Other times you'll have a full code patient fighting for life and losing.
So to summarize, no, you can't fully prepare because you don't know what situation you're preparing for.
Last edit by Mr. Murse on Mar 1, '14
I hate losing patients....that aren't on their deathbed.
It never gets easy...it just doesn't.
For me, knowing Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's (there are others but hers are closest to what I've encountered) five stages of death and knowing that at anytime patients and or their family members are going thru the stages...in no particular order and sometimes revisiting them has helped me understand and determine the support I try to provide at any given time during the process.
Thank God it usually comes naturally!
Denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance are the stages it seems people go thru. Allowing space yet letting them know you are available is key. Besides the facilty or company protocol...you should clean the body, dress them in something that you have there that looks clean and comfortable. Straighten out the bed, fold their hands together...or keep under the blankets( depending if theyre badly bruised from IV's and what not) , provide chairs next to the bed if possible for family to sit and grieve and be by their loved one....while waiting for funeral home to come get the body.
Last edit by HappyWife77 on Mar 1, '14
I had to laugh at this remember last year when my father died after a battle with terminal cancer. I had the privilege of being with my father last year when he died, and soon after my sister-in-law (who had more experience than I as a nurse...I was in my last class in nursing school) was flattening him down in the bed, making sure that he doesn't go into rigor mortis in an odd position because it's hard for the morticians to flatten these people out!
ETA: this is response to K+MgMSO4's post
Last edit by Working4ALiving on Mar 1, '14
: Reason: ETA