I don't know how you nurses deal with death | allnurses

I don't know how you nurses deal with death

  1. 2 Today I sat and watched as my mother lay dying in her bed at the NH. Horrible-not like in the movies at all. I sort of knew what to expect but actually seeing someone die is a lot harder than most can imagine. Her lungs were so full of liquid and she rattled when she breathed. Then, at the exact moment she exhaled for the last time, all that fluid came up and out of her mouth and after a few seconds I knew she was gone. I am sad that will be my last image of her. Did she look peaceful when she was gone? No, she was just "gone". I've read so many stories about how peaceful they look at time of death and was a little shocked that it wasn't like that. It was a surreal experience and I will never forget it.

    Yet in spite of it being so sad I am happy I was there at THAT moment. My Dad had gone out to have a smoke and the hospice nurse and chaplain were out of the room for a minute. I was the only one there when she died.

    That being said I don't know how you guys can deal with this on a daily basis. I watched the hospice nurse and it was amazing how she helped my Mom so she didn't suffer. I have a new respect for the nursing profession-I know I couldn't to this every day.
  2. Visit  Poochiewoochie profile page

    About Poochiewoochie

    Joined Aug '11; Posts: 181; Likes: 224.

    44 Comments so far...

  3. Visit  WoosahRN profile page
    10
    There is a certain pride that comes with helping someone die with dignity. When I know it's inevitable or leading to that (in ICU) I can switch my focus to providing them the most comfortable and swift passing. I can also prepare the family so that they are ready and can get their own support. We try to make the deaths as planned as we can (removing support) so that family can be present and it can be a good experience for them. I take comfort in that. For me it's more painful and difficult to deal with when I feel like I am keeping a patient alive in vain or because the family is in denial. I feel like I am doing stuff "to" the patient, versus "for" the patient.

    I'm so sorry for your loss. Please take care of yourself and try not to remember the last moments if they disturb you. I'm glad you were able to be there if only for the peace of knowing someone was with her.
    Hoozdo, Good Morning, Gil, tewdles, and 7 others like this.
  4. Visit  TheCommuter profile page
    4
    Hello, there. I extend my condolences for the loss of your mother.

    I've worked with the elderly population in nursing homes, so I have seen many different people transition from life to death.

    I cannot speak for other nurses, so I am only speaking for myself. Personally, I do not feel grief-stricken when patients die unless I have gotten very close to them. So far I have felt a profound sense of loss over two different deaths because I had gotten especially close to the two little old ladies, so when they died I became tearful.

    I totally love everything about hospice. May your mother rest in peace.
  5. Visit  Poochiewoochie profile page
    0
    The nurses in the NH were really attached to her-one in particular. It is going to be really hard on her because she loved my Mom and was trying so hard to fight back the tears last week when they thought she was dying then. But she was a fighter and hung in there-she turned 75 last Sunday so we think she just wanted to stick around for her birthday.
  6. Visit  Racer15 profile page
    2
    So sorry for your loss. I work in the ER, so I see death a lot. It's easier for me because I know we save as many lives as we lose, if not more. Death isn't fun, but it's a part of life and as long as I know that we did everything we could, I deal with the death. I like knowing that I provided a dying person with dignity in their last hours, that no matter their condition, I talk with them, tell them what I am doing and what's going on, and treat them as I hope to be treated if I am ever in their shoes. It's just a part of the job, you take the happy with the sad.
    KJDaRN81 and DizzyLizzyNurse like this.
  7. Visit  Caffeine_IV profile page
    3
    I'm sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one and taking care of patients who are dying or may die are not similar to me at all.
    TootieCutie, HouTx, and Nascar nurse like this.
  8. Visit  Poochiewoochie profile page
    2
    Quote from Lil'mama
    I'm sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one and taking care of patients who are dying or may die are not similar to me at all.

    That wasn't my point. I was saying that it must be hard to deal with death and dying on a regular basis. To me it doesn't matter if it's a loved one or a patient-it's the part about watching someone die and the whole process. I just couldn't do it on a daily basis like some of the nurses do here regardless of who it is.

    I know some people say they it's just part of the job but in reality the medical field is a job like no other.
    tewdles and Nascar nurse like this.
  9. Visit  melsch profile page
    9
    I work in hospice and I think your perspective changes when you deal with death on a regular basis. I don't see death as a bad or awful thing for the patient, I see death as something normal that everyone must go through, and my job is to make it as comfortable and dignified as possible. I am rarely sad when a patient dies, but if it is my family member or a friend it is totally different. I am sad because I will miss them, or if their death was caused by an accident or crime, I might be angry or devastated by what the person might have experienced, but my patients are expected to die so there is different feelings when they pass.

    I am sorry your Mom's death was not as nice as you were hoping, my patients whose lungs fill up at end of life like that are the hardest on everyone as you feel so helpless. Be assured that your Mom probably wasn't aware of the fluid by that point and it is harder for you to watch, than for her to experience.
    yginay, TootieCutie, tewdles, and 6 others like this.
  10. Visit  Do-over profile page
    3
    Although it is obviously difficult to lose our loved ones, death must be accepted as a natural and inevitable part of life.

    I am often sad or scared for my patients - particularly ones that I've come to know over the course of their illnesses. Usually, it feels like an honor, to me, to be a small part of the process for the patient and his or her family.

    I am much more disturbed by the futile attempts to extend life - to me, this can be far more heartbreaking and difficult than watching over a patient as they die.

    PS - sorry for the loss of your mother, and glad to know she wasn't alone at the end.
    Last edit by Do-over on Feb 24, '13 : Reason: add condolences
  11. Visit  brandy1017 profile page
    0
    It is especially difficult to watch a loved one die, heartbreaking and yes they don't always die peacefully, watching someone struggle to breathe, especially a loved one is torture. But the important thing is you were there for your mom she didn't die alone. May all your wonderful memories of her thru your life comfort you at this sad time! Know she is finally at peace and no longer struggling to breathe! I've read a lot of near death experiences from people who died and were brought back to life and they always want to stay in heaven with God and their loved ones in heaven and many times are literally forced back because their "work" is not done. So know she is happy and watching over you from heaven!
  12. Visit  NurseDirtyBird profile page
    3
    I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. I agree with melsch, after witnessing many deaths, you view it differently.
    Death frightened me for a long time, since I was a child. When I got into nursing, I wondered how I would deal with seeing it all the time. The first time I was there when a patient died, I was shocked at how utterly un-dramatic of an event it was. I figured it would be like in the movies, a crescendo building up until the moment of death, when BAM! But it wasn't like that all. They were there one moment, and the next, a complete release. It was then I realized my fear was born of a lack of understanding.

    I've done a lot of research and have helped many patients through their final journey. I discovered my heart lies with hospice, and am currently working towards that.

    I'm glad you could be there for your mother. I'm sure it meant a lot to have you there with her during her last moments. I wish you the best, and please remember that hospice is there for the bereaved in their grief as well as the patient who has passed.
    GrnTea, RNperdiem, and TheCommuter like this.
  13. Visit  aznurse1 profile page
    3
    I felt a need to comment when I read this post... I think the original poster is asking a question that has been something that I've asked myself in my nursing career, "how do I deal with all this dying around me?" Yes, I agree that it is a natural process. What I don't like, as an nurse, is how unprepared and unaccepting we are as a society in regards to death. So that frequently when I meet a patient that is dying, my experience is that there is no preparation or acknowledgement or acceptance of the event. This especially true for family members.

    Please note, I'm am not talking about an untimely death or emergent situation. I am talking about death from old age or death from the natural progression of chronic multiple disease processes or illnesses associated with certain death. This is the most frustrating for me when I am working with a very old patient with heart disease, copd, diabetes, cancer, stroke , etc, etc and family members who are suprised and opposed to death.

    It is stressful when a patient or family member does not understand/accept/have any interest in knowing about DEATH. Instead, in the hospital, its made to be some kind of emergency on a physical/emotional basis for the nurse. I find that extremely stressful for myself because the family members want something done right away so that the patient doesn't have to die....The kind of thoughts that go through my mind sometimes include, "are you kidding me?" when I'm told to get the doctor "NOW" to "FIX" someone who is dying.

    I haven't been to the hospital to work in a couple of months, so I am resting from that kind of stress. But have spent time thinking about the emotional turmoil I have experienced due to unrealistic expectations around dying patient from family members. I begrudge the fact that there is nothing in the healthcare system to acknowledge my emotional experience or my emotional needs as a result. Sometimes, I feel like having someone to talk to about my experience would be helpful. Or someone I can call when the situation is really off the deep end, that would help me deal.

    OP, thanks for bringing this up and acknowledging an area of challenge for at least myself. IMO, you conducted yourself with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. I'm sorry for your loss.
    Last edit by aznurse1 on Feb 24, '13 : Reason: spelling
  14. Visit  leslie :-D profile page
    5
    Quote from aznurse1
    What I don't like, as an nurse, is how unprepared and unaccepting we are as a society in regards to death. So that frequently when I meet a patient that is dying, my experience is that there is no preparation or acknowledgement or acceptance of the event. This especially true for family members.

    Please note, I'm am not talking about an untimely death or emergent situation. I am talking about death from old age or death from the natural progression of chronic multiple disease processes or illnesses associated with certain death. This is the most frustrating for me when I am working with a very old patient with heart disease, copd, diabetes, cancer, stroke , etc, etc and family members who are suprised and opposed to death.

    It is stressful when a patient or family member does not understand/accept/have any interest in knowing about DEATH. Instead, in the hospital, its made to be some kind of emergency on a physical/emotional basis for the nurse. I find that extremely stressful for myself because the family members want something done right away so that the patient doesn't have to die....The kind of thoughts that go through my mind sometimes include, "are you kidding me?" when I'm told to get the doctor "NOW" to "FIX" someone who is dying.
    as a hospice nurse, i get extremely frustrated that we as a society, are so anti-death.
    more often than not, people seem to be more focused on the dying's quantity of life, and not quality.
    that yes, we will do everything possible to prolong the dying process.
    it is even evidenced on the forums, where a poster will start a thread about dying/death, and there is little response to it.
    plenty of readers, but little response.

    over the years, i have also learned that families for the most part, ARE unwilling to let go.
    it doesn't matter if mom is 103yo or that dad has mets ca, arf, advanced chf, etc.
    we/drs are expected to do everything possible to work God's miracles.
    otoh, (too) many doctors are grossly inexperienced with eol issues, and for whatever reason, will aggressively treat til the pt's last gasping breath.

    i have no problems working with the dying.
    for me, it's a privilege and often a challenge...
    as each death is unique to the person, their etios, their psych, their attitudes, fears, etc.

    op, my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your mom.
    may time bring you comfort and healing.

    leslie
    Hoozdo, tewdles, KelRN215, and 2 others like this.


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