Do big girls and boys really cry??


I'm a first year nursing student at college, and I personally, am a very emotional person. The realization that at some point or another I'm going to have to either witness death, or to tell someone that they are dying is terrifying to say the least. When as a professional in a health care field is it ok to cry? There was an interesting article in the NYtimes online

but, I feel like it skirted around the issue, and just stated various opinions. I personally think that showing that I care, be it though tears, or laughter does not matter as long as my pt will understand that I care about them. On the other hand how do you know if ur pt will be ok with you crying, or if they'd rather you were strong?? This just seems so difficult to even think about, my mind is reeling!! :uhoh3::uhoh21:


1,302 Posts

Specializes in NICU. Has 8 years experience.

Every situation will be different, so you'll have to play each one by ear. I think it's fine to show emotions with a patient, as long as you don't "steal the show". Emotions need to be in check enough to do a professional job, but I have a hard time doing after-care on a baby without tears in my eyes.

As long as the attention is on the people who are truly grieving, whether it be a patient or their family, then there is nothing wrong with showing you care. Just don't put them in a position where they need to comfort you.

My dad tends to be a fountain of tears when he's emotional, so I'm certainly comfortable with it :).

TiffyRN, BSN, PhD

2,313 Posts

Specializes in Nurse Scientist-Research. Has 30 years experience.

I think it's okay to show tears in front of a patient, I think it's mostly positively perceived. I avoid it however because I can't just tear up in such situations, I either stay in control or I'm a blithering idiot. I did tear up one time standing over a very sad 18yr old who would die in the next couple of days and his family was gathered around. I was able to get myself back together without completely losing it and the family saw it and were touched by it.

leslie :-D

11,191 Posts

a nurse's radar will usually dictate the appropriateness of the what and when...

especially the more experienced you become.

tears are sometimes ok.

hebee-gebee crying, is not.

but given the fact that we do encounter extremely grievous situations, there will be times when letting the tears flow is perfectly ok.

as someone else stated, always remember it's about the pt, family...

and not about the nurse.

you'll be fine.:)



140 Posts

Specializes in Paediatric Cardic critical care. Has 6 years experience.

Personally, without being judgemental or too 'hard' I don't think that crying infront of patients is appropriate or professional.

In times when they themselves want to cry, or when they've recieved awful news about themselves, or to loved ones I feel it is ou place as nurses to be strong. Empathasise; but people in general I feel that patients or relatives don't want you to feel sorry for them.

As you gain more experience you will be able to find a happy medium, and generally some people are better at this than others. And you might surprise yourself that you are able to remain strong and professional in this situation. And sometimes it's not a bad thing when someone dies, sometimes you've nursed a patient who is terminal, or who's been in great pain and for them it's a relief to die. And sometimes it's nice from a nurses point of view that you have been able to give your patient a comfortable dignified death.

Sometimes of course it's not like this but you become somewhat 'used' to situations which are unpleasent or upsetting and you become able to 'deal' with them in a respectful professional manner.

In my opinion I feel that the place for a nurse to cry is in the car on the way home or in the staff changing room. We are a human driven profession and of course we can't help but care but it isn't really our place to get too wrapped up in a situation. And I feel that our patients can tell that we are moved by their situation without us crying about it.

hope that helps some, good luck for the future :nuke:

locolorenzo22, BSN, RN

1 Article; 2,396 Posts

Specializes in Ortho, Neuro, Detox, Tele.

I think that if you can't should leave. EVERY nurse should feel some spark of that caring, empethetic spirit when caring for patients...some more than others. It is appropriate when the situation calls for it..sometimes you get to know patients and families....sometimes you know them for less than a shift....but you always care.

Lorie P.

754 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surge, Private Duty Peds.

ther e will be times hwne you come across a ot and family that you can't help but shed tears and that is fine!

like others have said remember the pt and family, it is not your time to be in the limelight or be the center of attention.

a couple of yeara ago i was taking care of 2 pts at the same time , one was 32, dnr, c2-3 fracture, vent dependent and in the process of dying. pt # 2 was 82, dnr and had family all around him and sharing their past memories with each other . pt # 1 had no family and i was on ativan and morphine patrol to keep the pt's as pain free as possible.

the pt with the family were so loving and grateful and i couldn't help but shed a few tears when i had to let them know he had passed and the doc would be up from ed to pronounce him. the family thanked me so much for taking so ggod care of their dad and it mean the world to him.

yet at the same time, my other pt was all alone except when i could be with him, they both passed about 10 minutes apart and i shed tears when the youner one passed because he was all alone and didn't have family with him.

so yes it is ok to cry and re-group, focus and move on. i think that if a nurse can't show emotions or tears at some point and time, then that nurse must have one heck of a stone heart or far ditatched that is really sad to be that way.

sorry to ramble on but, that't my :twocents::twocents: and how i feel.

Dolce, RN

861 Posts

Specializes in Day Surgery, Agency, Cath Lab, LTC/Psych.

I have only cried a couple of times on the job. One of the times was when a much-beloved patient died. He was just a saint and me and my coworkers had known him a long time. He was youngish and his parents came to visit our unit after his death. They brought us flowers from the funeral. I couldn't help crying with them as we visited with them and shared with them how special their son was to us. In that setting I felt like it was okay to cry because I didn't overdo it. I showed my feelings without needing their comfort. I think as nurses we need to remember that we cannot depend on family members or patients for comfort. We are supposed to be the caregivers--not the care receivers. Just remember your role.

I personally have found comfort in seeing others cry over a shared grief. It demonstrates to me that my loved one was loved by others.


138 Posts

Specializes in Peds (previous psyc/SA briefly). Has 7 years experience.

I cry at anything. Every sappy car commercial. Every happy news story. Every time I get criticized. So I had to really learn to reign things in (because nursing school - especially as a second career - really was a big shocker to me on the criticism front.)

So now I've seen several pediatric deaths and many really sad situations (like telling families about infantile spasms or syndromes or the like) and while I have had tears many times, I've never sobbed. I've seen people (male and female, MD, RT, RN, ect.) sob - but it's rare. Sometimes you just get so overwhelmed, you can't help it. But they do not do it at the bedside.

In general - here's my thought on crying (not tearing up, I mean crying) at the bedside. It puts a huge burden on the family. Seriously. To me, it's like many other boundary issues. I don't share my personal life because my patients and families are dealing with their own problems - they don't need to worry about what to say to me, how to comfort me, how to meet my needs. And I don't want to insert myself into their personal grief. And so I compartmentalize until I can get home. Or sometimes to my car. Or once just to the nearest bathroom.

But you learn to do it. Because someone has to. No one wants to. But someone has to.

Don't stress about it - that's my advice. Listen to everyone else posting - they all figured it out. And then there's me - the blubbering idiot! If I can do it at a situation that honestly could be the poster-example for hell in a hospital - and finish my shift pale but functional, anyone can.

Because that's what we do.

As far as laughter goes - I couldn't last 10 minutes without it!

I would appreciate if I was in a bad situation and my nurse cried a bit. It would show they TRUELY cared about me.


14 Posts

To cry over a loss is human. Don't ever lose your humanity and caring spirit regardless of what other people may think.

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