Suicide attempt while at school

  1. Ive been a school nurse for 3 years. Before this great adventure, I was hospital based and also did high risk outpatient OB case management. On Monday, I had the scariest nursing experience of my life. Im not handling it well and thought I might share it with other school nurses to help give me some insight.
    Im a nurse at a middle school, have approx 740 6th, 7th and 8th graders. I was called to a classroom for an "emergency" I took off running, emergency bag in tow, arrived to the classroom to find one of my 8th graders on the floor convulsing and screaming about pain. Head to toe assessment, as fast as I could. She is well known to me, in fact had recently disclosed that she was pregnant ( long story short CPS referral, lots of visits with me in my office etc she is 13) At that point she screams out, "I just want to die." I ask, "did you take something" She responds, "yes when I got to school" We were in the process of a self inflicted drug overdose. My heart literally stopped. I instructed the teacher to call 911. Maintained airway, kept her conscious, kept her from hurting herself during convulsions. All the time I prayed that this child please not die!! Took paramedics 22 minutes to arrive. One of the most heart breaking moments was when the got her on the stretcher and she screamed "my name, please dont leave me!" I quickly hugged her, told her she was in good hands, that I had to stay to take care of the others. They wheeled her away and I lost it. I cried, I shook and felt like I was going to faint. It was at that moment I realized just how "alone" I am in this job. I have an AED, no narcan (yet) no oxygen, no code team. She will be ok. She is getting the care she needs. We move on. Im having terrible nightmares. I keep dreaming that 3 of my kids do it at the same time, in different places and I cant get to them.
    Has anyone else encountered anything like this? Have any of you ever been overwhelmed by the thought that you are the only nurse in your building and that your resources, both materially and in other medical support persons, is incredibly limited?
    I have made an appt with a counselor for myself. The emotions of this are exhausting.
    Any words of advice? Thank you in advance!!!
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  2. 61 Comments

  3. by   Farawyn
    First of all, I just wish I could reach through the screen and hug you. YOU handled this well. You never left her side, you did what you had to. I'm so glad she is getting help, and you are, as well.

    Yes, we are alone, a fact that everyone seems to forget until there is a emergency. It is scary, and a HUGE responsibility.

    Take care of you. Talk to your counselor. Talk to us. Talk to your family that loves you, a friend that is not in district. Talk to the school psych.
    The kids will probably need some help, too. The ones that witnessed this. Insist on being part of that.

    Get track now of those teachers that are CPR certified, and ask them and whoever else you deem responsible to attend a community run Narcan seminar.
    Find out from your medical director and your state board of school nursing what your limitations are with this.
    Find your allies. They are usually in psych and guidance, although Admin often plays a role.
    Connect with the other nurses in your district.

    Follow up with the student herself. reassure yourself tat she is fine, and that she is getting help. Do not be afraid to let her know this affected you.

    Eat pizza. Pet your dog and hug your kids.

    Love to you.
  4. by   WineRN
    This makes my heart ache. Such small ones thinking such large and dangerous thoughts.

    It's normal to be shaken up by a situation like this. Like Far said, we never know how alone we are until a real emergency happens and that IS scary. The student is lucky to have someone like YOU in her life. You made difference in her life by both saving her life and showing her that she has an adult who believes she matters. That for someone who feels alone enough to attempt suicide is more precious than anything else.

    Take care of you and know that we are all thinking of you here <3
  5. by   Amethya
    You handled this like a pro and I commend you for this. Take care of yourself and don't think you didn't do your best. That child knows you are there for her and I'm sure in the future she will come to you when she needs you.
  6. by   kidzcare
    I want to hug you!! What a scary and heart wrenching situation! Kudos to you for your quick thinking to ask if she had taken anything and getting the teacher to call EMS stat.

    Big hugs to you! Find peace and eat the pizza that Far recommended
  7. by   tining
    First: prayers to the student and you.

    Second: This is why we are here. Lay people do NOT understand what we do.

    Thoughts:
    Meet with admin and give them your thoughts on how this could go smoother - a debriefing session.

    Do you have a walkie to contact admin quickly? Did the teacher freeze? Were the other students pulled out of the room quickly? Why did it take so long for the ambulance? Maybe carry your cell at all times?

    Write down your thoughts so you are prepared.
  8. by   Glitternurse
    I have no advice or words of wisdom, just hugs. You held it together when it mattered most, and you positively touched a young life who seems to feel very alone. My prayers to all of you for healing of body, mind and spirit.
  9. by   OyWithThePoodles
    Hugs upon hugs. You did everything you could, and how amazing is it that she wanted you there with her. That tells you that you are doing something right. I'm glad you've made an appointment with a counselor, it will help to just talk through things. As always, we are here as well.
  10. by   SaltineQueen
    What a scary experience for you! It is such an isolating job and I often have feeling that I'm not "good enough" to handle a crisis. Yes, the thought of something major happening to one of "my kids" scares the heck out of me. Several years ago, long before I was here, a 3rd grade boy dropped in gym and was gone...just like that. The nurse did CPR, EMS arrived quickly, but there was no bringing him back. I live in town, so I heard the story in the news, and have talked to staff that is still here about that day. I cannot imagine going on with the rest of my day or coming in to work in the following days. But they did, and I'm sure I could...because that's what we do.

    I think counseling is absolutely the right choice. I hope it helps you deal with the emotions. ((Hugs))
  11. by   OldDude
    First of all...BAM! Another kid snatched from the jaws of death!! School nurses...that's what we do. Like tining said above, LAY people do not understand what we do - Hell, other nurses don't understand what we do; it's just a cushy job where you put bandaids on skinned knees and wipe runny noses. But as we know, and you in particular, school nurses are literally the ones who are called to pry the grasping hands of death off "our" kids and provide these children the opportunity to return to school for another day and for their loved ones to kiss them good night. Yes, it will shake you to the core and it'll haunt you for a while but the fact remains YOU and only YOU scooped this girl back to life. Awesome assessment, awesome intervention, awesome school nurse Cas!!!!!

    God be smilin...sayin, "oh yea!" She's on my team!!
  12. by   ohiobobcat
    I can "hear" how affected you were/are about this situation by reading what you wrote. Bottom line, you did what you could with what you had on hand to help this student. When you don't have fancy equipment and drugs on hand you fall back to the basics. You maintained her airway, kept her safe, and were ready to start CPR if needed. Good job!!! That sucks about the EMS response time. That must have felt like the longest 22 minutes of your life.

    Hugs and prayers for you and your student. I am glad you are going to talk to a professional about this. I wonder, like others have suggested, if a school counselor, or even your local EMS might have a resource to set up a debriefing for those who were involved. I know when we had particularly tough cases in the ER, they would do that for us (staff) and the EMS personnel who were involved.

    Take care of yourself and keep us updated on how you are doing!
  13. by   ctate
    Prayers for you and your student.
  14. by   nmr79
    Wow, hugs to you. I've only dealt with this when I worked inpatient psych, so I had my "teammates" to process with. It's way harder in a school setting. Definitely follow through with the counseling-- you need to take care of yourself. How lucky for that girl that she has your support.

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