Have you ever shed tears in front of a patient or a patient's family.

  1. 0
    I'm not talking about all-out sobbing, body-wracking crying. I'm just saying tears welling up and possibly spilling over without the accompanying grimace.

    Is that appropriate, inappropriate?

    If you have, how did the patients/family members/coworkers react? How did you feel about your own behavior?
  2. 41 Comments so far...

  3. 6
    When I was in my nursing transitions course before I graduated from school, I was working in the Neuro ICU. I had been with one particular patient and his family for 3 days when he finally passed away. His wife came out of the room after saying her goodbyes to her late husband and gave me a hug and thanked me for all of my help and support. I had a few tears streaming down my face as we spoke. Definitely not sobbing, just a few tears escaped.

    She almost seemed to appreciate it because she could tell I really cared about taking care of her husband and I felt his loss. My preceptor said that death is hard but you get used to dealing with it a lot, but sometimes they need to take a breather (and they have counselors for the staff to deal with issues like death).

    I think it depends on why you cry. I don't think I would cry because a patient was being rude or nasty, I was having a bad day, or a doctor gave me attitude (I'd save any crying like that for the bathroom or home haha). I think when you lose a patient that you've gotten to know a little bit, or you've gotten to know the family, it's okay to let a few tears escape. It may show the patient that you are empathetic and that you are acknowledging their loss.
    nuangel1, llaura, Hospice Nurse LPN, and 3 others like this.
  4. 28
    Not too long ago we were taking a 22 year old Marine who'd been wounded downrange to the OR to harvest his organs. His wife was there with their 3 month-old baby (that he'd never seen). Usually goodbyes are said in the ICU before we transport to the OR, but this wife asked if she could 'just walk with us to the OR'.

    I told her okay, but only up to the red line on the floor of the OR. She walked alongside his bed holding his hand from the ICU to the OR, her mom walking behind holding the baby. And the whole time, she kept saying, "I love you, baby. I love you so much."

    Well, we came to the red line in the OR and I said, "Honey, you have to let go." Well, she couldn't. And we're all standing there and the German Harvest Team is staring at us from the OR suite waiting, the CRNA is quietly bagging the patient staring at the wall trying not to cry himself, I'm trying not to breathe because if I do I'm not going to be able to hold it in.

    Her father finally comes and pulls her away and we start rolling again and all I can hear is her saying over and over "I love you, baby, I love you." and I almost made it to the door before I had to take a breath which came out like a huge inhaled sob and everybody heard it. I wasn't the only one.

    Appropriate vs Inappropriate? Don't know, don't care.

    Did family members care? I don't know. I would hope it let them know that their beloved was cared for, but honestly - they're so deep in their own grief they're pretty much blind at that point.

    How do I feel about it? Being that I have to compartmentalize every single day the scores of inexcusably young men and women who have been blown to absolute **** for no good reason (or one that anyone can satisfactorily explain to me) and the fact that I cannot let it bother me at the moment or I can't do my job, I guess I'm glad that I can still BE moved to tears over yet another inexcusable loss.
    llaura, Erindel RN, Crux1024, and 25 others like this.
  5. 5
    Once...the details are too specific to post, but it was particularly a tragic set of circumstances and I really felt for the family. I didn't totally break down but I empathized with them so much that as I was talking to them, the tears just started coming down my face and there wasn't much I could do about it.

    I apologized to them, I was a little embarrassed, but then one of the family said to me, "At least we know you really care."
  6. 5
    When I floated to L&D to help out, every single delivery made me shed a tear. It was embarrassing! The room would be overcome with emotion as the family met their son or daughter for the very first time, and I tried my hardest but the second that baby was on mom's chest, a tear or two would slip out.
  7. 5
    I've shed tears with families when a loved one had passed away. This was in a LTC facility I worked in for many years in a small rural town so I knew these people. I don't see anything wrong with it; it shows you are caring & human!
    Hospice Nurse LPN, Leelee2, tvccrn, and 2 others like this.
  8. 16
    I have shed tears on multiple occasions over my 31 years. I think that if sometimes the overwhelming saddness of a particular situation doesn't touch you once in a while......you are headed for burnout.

    I remember 2 in particular right away. It was about 1988, I was caring for a little girl age eight. She was struck by a vehicle sustaning a severe head injury as well as multiple fractures and an open femur fracture. I was working in the ED when she came in........the driver of the other vehicle suffered a heart attack behind the wheel as has died. The next day I was working in the ICU (I worked both places) and I was assigned to her. I became her primary nurse. She did not do well and after many days of fighting for her life she is gone...........cebrebral perfusion..........negative.

    The family declined organ donation. The first time I cried was after capping all her IV's and such and disconnecting her traction and ICP...........I picked her up to place her in her mothers arms to die.....her mother rocked her and sang "hush little baby don't say a word.........". I kissed her cheek and her mothers cheek with tears running down my cheeks and I said I was sorry i couldn't give her baby back to her (like I had anything to do with it ) . Her momma looked at me and said "but you have, I am holding her in my arm's aren't I". The second time was that very day........My little patient was a corners case. The corner came and the mother suddenly went ballistic "If I knew they were going to cut her up anyway I would have donated her organs! " as she wailed on the corner.
    WHen we finally calmed the mother down I went to help the corner place her in the body bag, I promised her mom she wouldn't be alone..............with nothing but staff around.........they started zipping up the bag and I lost it!!!!!!!!! I couldn't speak, I couldn't move I just sat down and finally let it go.!

    My co- workers were stunned as I was always the strong one........I got lots of hugs that day by nurses and doctors alike. Her mother smiled at me when she was rocking her daughter and said........how sweet you loved her too!

    I still know her name. I know her birth date. She loved butterflies!!!!!!!!!! Hush little baby.......I though of you today!

    It was the first time I ever did that on one so young and it wasn't the last.........and I am a better person for it!
    llaura, Erindel RN, Crux1024, and 13 others like this.
  9. 10
    Yup. Done it before, would do it again. The day that I don't cry with a family as their loved one is dying in front of them is the day that it's time to go. Tears don't make me less of a professional, they make me more of a human.
    llaura, elizabeth8503RN, scoochy, and 7 others like this.
  10. 4
    I asked an instructor about this too, just last week, in fact because this is a huge concern I had.

    She stated that it is okay to cry and that it really does show the family that you truly care. She stated that we are human, first and foremost, and that it is okay to show our true humanity. The big key, is that we still need to be able to do our jobs.

    Once I heard her say that it was okay, it seemed to help in controlling the emotion.

    On the flip side, huge wracking sobs, shaking, wailing - these are things that would probably interfere with my ability to do my job and are better left saved for your chaplain or for a professional counselor's office.

    But, we gotta let it out. If you don't, burn-out might soon consume you.
    Hospice Nurse LPN, Esme12, tvccrn, and 1 other like this.
  11. 4
    I had a wonderful nursing instructor that told us, "Remember, you are human. Don't be afraid to shed a few tears...it just means that you care and that this patient has touched you at a deep emotional level." I did my internship in oncology, and I had tears well up in my eyes as the patient that I had cared for for weeks, lay taking her last breaths. The nun came up and she asked me and her mother to hold hands with her while she said a prayer for the daughter. It was a beautiful, sad, and spiritual experience all at the same time. Yes, I shed a few tears, and the mother hugged me, and thanked me. I would have worried more about myself if I hadn't cried.

    Now working in a completely different area of nursing, chemical dependency and detox, I've had the tears well up a few times, too. Many of my patients have had, to put it nicely, life hand them a crap sandwich. The awful, awful things that so many of them have experienced is gut-wrenching. When I've had them tell me about their lives, yes, I feel honored that they have trusted me. And, yes, as I've walked away, I've had to wipe away a tear. Remember, I'm only human.


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