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Can’t cope with death, should I even go to nursing school?

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by danielle0206 danielle0206 (New Member) New Member

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I’m think looking for advice or just others stories. I’m planning on applying for fall 2019 to a community college ASN program. I’ve taken all my pre-reqs and co courses and just need to take the teas. Now I’m rethinking due to recently coming into some insecurities I’m not sure how to cope with. I’ve started working in a hospital pharmacy and I’ve been exposed to people actively dying and people who have died in passing. I can’t cope (get nervous, want to leave the area immediately, and I dwell on those situations days after and feel sad and scared for the patients) with those situations and I’m not even involved how would I cope while in nursing school or once I become a nurse? I already know I don’t want to do hospital nursing regardless and am interested in doctors office type environments but I am assuming you’re exposed to those situations during clinicals and I’m not sure I want to put myself through that. Should I take this as a sign and look into other avenues. Thanks!!

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695 Visitors; 14 Posts

Hi! I'm replying to you mainly because all of the questions I was looking for tonight have no answers to them, which just bums me out. So I'm on here--and I'm gonna answer you! I am not yet an RN, but I have been working in health care as a home health aide for years. Here's what I know: Nursing as a field has more different kinds of jobs then you could possibly imagine yet. I've been courting the field of nursing like a dead-beat boyfriend for over a decade now, and I only just today heard about an RN who works at Volvo's headquarters. That's right. The car company. He get's Volvo's perks, wears a suit and tie to work, and mostly nurses hangovers, and paper cuts. Mind you--I am getting this story second hand. But the home health nurse who I was working with today was telling me about it trying to relay to me the very point that I'm trying to pass on to you: If you don't cope well with death, you can point your career in a less "dire" direction. (pun) The other thing to keep in mind is like with everything else, there is a learning curve. While death may be a huge trigger for you now, you might just find that you love working with people on their last leg in the long run. Hospice used to be almost a phobia for me, this summer I found myself loving working alongside the hospice nurses when things took a turn for my grandfather. I still don't think I will be going into hospice myself, but I got to see how much I've grown in that department. If you want to be a nurse don't let this one edge ruin your dreams. Every nurse I've ever asked has made it clear that they have one thing they can't cope with. 

Here's another fine tip. And I think it's worth considering at any stage in your career. If something is causing that much anxiety for you, it would be worth seeking out counsel of someone you can really talk this through with. If for no other reason then to talk it out and process that stress now, when it's first coming up, rather then trying to push it down. ...I wish someone had given me the number of a good therapist after I did my first EMT training.

Good luck!

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Luchador has 5 years experience as a CNA, EMT-B.

1,303 Visitors; 197 Posts

2 hours ago, danielle0206 said:

I’m think looking for advice or just others stories. I’m planning on applying for fall 2019 to a community college ASN program. I’ve taken all my pre-reqs and co courses and just need to take the teas. Now I’m rethinking due to recently coming into some insecurities I’m not sure how to cope with. I’ve started working in a hospital pharmacy and I’ve been exposed to people actively dying and people who have died in passing. I can’t cope (get nervous, want to leave the area immediately, and I dwell on those situations days after and feel sad and scared for the patients) with those situations and I’m not even involved how would I cope while in nursing school or once I become a nurse? I already know I don’t want to do hospital nursing regardless and am interested in doctors office type environments but I am assuming you’re exposed to those situations during clinicals and I’m not sure I want to put myself through that. Should I take this as a sign and look into other avenues. Thanks!!

If being around gravely sick people and folks that are in their last few weeks of life bother you--- yes, you should find a different field.  Makes about as much sense as somebody who is terrified of germs becoming a nurse.  Seeing folks that are dying and suffering affects everybody, but if you can't be professional around it and it sends you toward depression, I don't know how you'd get through clinicals.  

In my rotations this semester I have done suction on vegetative patients kept alive by a feeding tube and a ventilator.  They still make a face and gag when you suction them.  

And this first year much of the rotations were in long term care homes.  Just last week I was assigned to care for a lady that is probably dead as I type this.  

And the worst. . . the absolute worst are the infants that are sick and dying.  Consider that because you will be doing an OB/Peds rotation. 

Of course, there is a chance with some help you could cope. Or maybe just do what the rest of us do and learn to cope on your own, but if you are that disturbed by folks about to die, nursing school (let alone nursing) will be tough.    Best of luck.   

 

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ThatChickOmi has 1 years experience.

1,449 Visitors; 106 Posts

Maybe coming to terms with why exactly you're this uncomfortable with patient death would help. Is it because you do not understand the process? You're going to do probably a few lectures in your schooling about this very subject as well as have patients that are close to death, so it's inevitable. As a nurse you're going to have to be somewhat accepting and competent around a patient that is near death or you'll never get through it. Not just for yourself, but for the patient and their loved ones too.

 

Death scares the crap out of me but at the same time I find it to be one of the most interesting processes. I've had patients that died soon after (hours, days, weeks) after my clinical with them. My clinical group performed post mortem care on a deceased patient in the first week of this semester. It's sad. But it's a part of life and it's the only thing that is 100% guaranteed.

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keepingitrealnursing has 4 years experience as a BSN and works as a Registered Nurse.

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Hello. I am a nurse for close to 4 years. I have only worked at teaching hospitals and started out in oncology and transitioned to the ICU. Yes, I have encountered death on the oncology unit (literally 3 deaths in 1 week). We become really close with patients, especially in oncology. I would say that it did indeed make me cry on that third death, I literally broke down in the bathroom in tears. This happens a lot in nursing as well in the ICU in which I had to wipe away blood from an intubated patient in front of his family members that was basically already brain dead...we were just waiting on the go ahead to take the tube out. Indeed I broke down again in an empty room with 2 coworkers to console me. Unfortunately this happens. It did bring back horrible memories in oncology since my dad had passed away from cancer. If nursing is something you are really passionate about then go for it. I was literally afraid of my own blood growing up, and somehow, I got through it. However, it does take an emotional toll, so it is something to reconsider because you do not want to sacrifice your health for this either. Choose a path you will enjoy. This is my story...

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Sour Lemon has 9 years experience.

2 Followers; 29,031 Visitors; 4,104 Posts

21 hours ago, danielle0206 said:

I’m think looking for advice or just others stories. I’m planning on applying for fall 2019 to a community college ASN program. I’ve taken all my pre-reqs and co courses and just need to take the teas. Now I’m rethinking due to recently coming into some insecurities I’m not sure how to cope with. I’ve started working in a hospital pharmacy and I’ve been exposed to people actively dying and people who have died in passing. I can’t cope (get nervous, want to leave the area immediately, and I dwell on those situations days after and feel sad and scared for the patients) with those situations and I’m not even involved how would I cope while in nursing school or once I become a nurse? I already know I don’t want to do hospital nursing regardless and am interested in doctors office type environments but I am assuming you’re exposed to those situations during clinicals and I’m not sure I want to put myself through that. Should I take this as a sign and look into other avenues. Thanks!!

The death thing aside, why do you want to be a nurse? Office jobs pay less- especially for someone who lacks experience. Most "nurses" who work in doctors' offices are actually medical assistants.
This is about pros and cons, to me ...so what are the pros as you see it?

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There are, of course, many avenues of nursing in which you would very likely be able to avoid being close to death/dying patients after you graduate.  However, as a student about to graduate from an ADN program, in my experience nursing school is very well-rounded.  You will have rotations in long-term care, critical care (ICU, possibly including the neonatal ICU), med-surg, possibly oncology, etc.  You will almost certainly come into contact with death/dying in your clinical rotations.  In addition, I would imagine it would probably be difficult to get into a job where you do not come into contact with death or dying patients without having prior experience in an acute care (hospital) setting.  For example, I would be willing to bet that the "Volvo nurse" worked in other settings as a nurse for a good chunk of time before he/she was hired with Volvo.  Of course, the available jobs really depend on your area.  I would suggest meeting with an advisor on campus at whatever school/schools you're interested in attending and expressing your concerns to them.  They may have valuable insight specific to your area.  I don't think this is necessarily something that should keep you from the field, but it's definitely something that requires you to do some soul-searching and self-education before you make a decision.

I also agree with what previous posters have suggested related to figuring out why you are affected this way and perhaps considering counseling.

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Cupcake2018 has 1 years experience.

181 Visitors; 21 Posts

Just because you can't cope with death now doesn't mean you won't learn how to cope with it from here on out. No need to give up on your goal of nursing. Worst comes to worst, pick an area of nursing where patient death is unlikely. School nursing, nursing education, provider's office, outpatient setting, and psych are just a few areas I can think of where you probably won't have to deal with death much. Don't give up!

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Jory has 10 years experience as a MSN, APRN, CNM.

1 Follower; 11,148 Visitors; 1,172 Posts

As sad as it sounds, you get very used to it. 

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