Experienced my first code today.....


Hello All,

I am a senior nursing student and I will graduate in May. I am doing my Capstone in the OR and my patient coded today. This is my FIRST time ever experiencing anything like this in my life.

I went to get the patient from Pre-op. I interviewed the patient and I noticed the patient was crying. The patient's daughter was also crying. There was something "different" about how this patient said her good-byes to her family. It was like she was telling them as if she will never see them again. The patient was getting a colostomy takedown.

The last thing the patient's daughter said to me was to "make sure you take good care of my moma". I told her "don't worry, we'll take good care of her" as I am wheeling the patient back to the OR.

I help get her strapped on the OR table and the patient is still upset and crying. She said she was scared. I tried to reassure her. I wiped her tears away.

The patient's surgery was about 3 hours long and there was minimum blood loss. She wakes up from anasthesia and we take her over to the PACU for recovery.

We go to get lunch and as we are eating, a code is called to Recovery. We run over and it's my patient. Everything is happening so fast, there are so many people there and I find myself doing compressions and rotating holding the amblu (sp?) bag.

We spent 37 minutes doing CPR before the code was called. I managed to hold it together during the code, but broke down as soon as I stepped into the hallway. I tried to make it to the locker room and another nurse sees me and follow me to calm me down.

The surgeon went to talk to the family, the very same daughter I told not to worry, we will take good care of her. Those words are stuck in my head and I don't think I'll ever say those words to another patient again.

I was very shaken up emotionally. I had seen this patient, she was alive and well at 09:30 and dead by 13:28. This patient did have a history of hypertension and COPD. However, her labs were all normal and she had her last surgery in October of last year.

I just feel like what if, or did we do everything we could to keep this patient alive. I hate to even think how the family reacted to the news.

Any encourgaging words would be greatly apperciated. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.


213 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg. Has 4 years experience.

I'm so sorry you had to go through this, and I'm sorry for the family, too. Unfortunately, these things happen. People will be fine one minute and coding the next, just as your patient was and just as I've seen several go through in my time. Sometimes patients just know when it is their time, they can't explain it and it seems like your patient had this feeling. The patients family was lucky to have you at their mothers side the entire time and I'm sure they took comfort in knowing that you did all you could.


161 Posts

Specializes in med/surg, ER. Has 3 years experience.

Sometimes people just know when it is their time. I have heard it called "a feeling of impending doom." There is nothing you could have done differently for this patient or her family. You were kind, caring and compassionate, wiping away tears and giving the reassurance you could. You did take good care of her. Time will help this wound heal, please let it. :icon_hug:

nrsang97, BSN, RN

2,602 Posts

Specializes in Neuro ICU and Med Surg. Has 22 years experience.

I agree with the others. Sounds like she just knew it was her time to go. That "impending doom feeling" we learn about.


allnurses Guide

JBudd, MSN

1 Article; 3,836 Posts

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching. Has 42 years experience.

Here's my shoulder, its pretty good at getting wet {{{{nurse2b}}}}}}

Crying is perfectly normal and okay, you held together when you needed to and wept when you could.

Your lady said her goodbyes, which many never get a chance to do. And you did take good care of her, don't be afraid to use that promise. You are not God, and you cannot stop bad things from happening; all you can do is what you can do. Sometimes its wiping away tears, sometimes its doing compressions, sometimes its the respect we show the body as we prepare it for the medical examiner.


1 Article; 3,037 Posts

Specializes in Medical.

Your first code is always traumatic, even more so if it's actually your patient, so well done. As others have said, you did take good care of her, and if she arrested in one of the most intensely-monitored areas of the hospital it's not as though she died because anyone missed warning signs.

It took over 100 full codes before my hands were steady enough for me to be able to draw up drugs! Good work. Hopefully you'll end up finding out what the ME determines caused your patient to code, and have some resolution


393 Posts

Specializes in ICU.

I've been in ICU for a year, and, to me, every code is still sad. I feel bad for the families. Sometimes I'm sad for the pt, too, if they are young and it seems like their life was too short. I'm also one to think, gosh, she was alive just an hour ago. I think it's just part of coming to terms with the death. Don't feel bad about shedding tears. It's normal to be sad about a sad event.

As far as doing everything you could, I always feel like it's not enough, especially when the pt doesn't make it. Again, I think it's normal to feel that way when we don't get the outcome we want.

I'm glad you were there for your pt. Nursing students seem to have more time to spend w/ pts, at least I feel like I did, compared to the time I have as an RN now. Let it be some comfort to you, that you were an extra person to be there with her.

I think you did fine, and I think your feelings are normal. I'm sorry you're feeling sad. :icon_hug:


1,016 Posts

I think it's great she got to say goodbye to her loved ones. If we could all be so lucky. I wasn't even in the country when my own mum died. It was a terrible feeling.

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