First time performing CPR.


Hi everyone,

Last week, I performed my very first round chest compressions during a code. (had practiced on mannequins, but never an actual person) There was a team of nurses, docs, pharmacists, there to guide me and ensure I was doing adequate compressions.

It was the longest two minutes of my life. All I kept thinking was "please live, please live". I kept trying not to look into the eyes of the patient because I was so terrified that I would burst into tears. It was scariest moment of my life, and I will never forget it.

I ended up getting a pulse back after my round of compressions, but the patient ended up dying.

As I left work, I couldn't help but cry while driving home. That night, I had nightmares about people I know and love, all collapsing and dying. I was trying to do CPR on one person, when others needed it as well. There wasn't enough of me to save everyone.

I know I will probably do this many more times in my career.. But I hope to never get comfortable with it, never become the nurse that thinks a code isn't a big deal, never be the nurse who isn't impacted in some way by a code, never become the nurse who doesn't get nervous or scared when their patient crashes.

I hope to never be that nurse.

To never lose my ability to realize that it's okay to be scared, it's okay to cry, it's okay to feel as if your best isn't enough...because in all reality, sometimes it just isn't.

And that's okay.

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 10 years experience.

It's a good experience to have. I feel you need to handle the emotions well though and not allow the experience to eat away at you and become something unhealthy.

We can't save them all and sometimes no matter what we attempt to do it is the persons time to die. Just because you don't shed a tear it doesn't mean you're not compassionate.

Sun0408, ASN, RN

1,761 Posts

Specializes in Trauma Surgical ICU. Has 4 years experience.

Yes a code is a big deal and it can be very stressful if you internalize everything. As nurses we HAVE to protect our sanity and emotional well being and that comes in many forms. Don't say never. In a year you may just be that same nurse. It's always sad when a life is lost. I can tell you their are worse things then death. Death is a part of life and like previous poster stated, we cant save them all, no matter how hard we try. Take some time to feel how you do but please get past this so it doesn't eat you alive. Talk to someone if you need to.


2,096 Posts

it's okay to feel as if your best isn't enough...because in all reality, sometimes it just isn't.

All we can do is our best. Sometimes situations are beyond our best efforts, and the remedy for the situation, if there was one, was beyond our powers. Your CPR helped the patient regain a pulse. A number of factors that you were not responsible for resulted in the patient not surviving. I hope you can find peace in knowing that you did the best you could, and that you helped the patient regain a pulse. If the patient had been my family member, I would have greatly appreciated that you did CPR to the best of your ability, and that your actions resulted in my family member regaining a pulse even though they did not survive.


1,871 Posts

Not to sound cold, but you get used to it eventually. We will code a patient then I will go eat a sandwich right after during my break.

It's just the nature of the ICU because we deal with so much death.


5 Articles; 4,547 Posts

Specializes in critical care.

Remember this experience it and catalog it in your heart with your many firsts.

Now, consider the sadness in your heart and how this has affected you since. Know that above all else, getting used to code blues, and performing them unemotionally after you are used to them will not be as terrible as you currently fear it will be. It is a blessing to not feel this way every time.

My first one was a tiny little old lady. As they prepared her body for her family to say good byes, I held her still warm head in my hands thinking of all the sadness that was about to be felt by those who love her.

Now that I'm on a step down unit, I see the suffering that comes with declining health in the elderly. I see how when it's time to "go", it can actually be a blessing. Families go through so much at the end of loved ones' lives. The end is sad, but when the grief goes, the passage of it is cathartic.

We are heroes. We don't always win. We always fight, though, and we fight hard and well. You will always know you did your best, but sometimes it's just time for that person's body to let go.

Now, about a year and a half after my first death after compressions experience, I can tell you the last time I did compressions, this massive 350-400 lb man's ribs did not break and it left a giant bruise on my hand that pissed me off for weeks. For some reason, only two of us could get effective compressions on him, too. I'm the smallest nurse on my unit, so I really don't get that a bit, but there you have it. We did get him back, but he probably has since passed since he was vent depended after coding. I'm not sad. I'm not heartless for not being sad. I rocked that code, we got him back, but his body was in such bad shape already that to live longer would be suffering.

Stay strong, love. If this continues to upset you so deeply, consider talking to mentors or a counselor about it.


288 Posts

Specializes in Emergency/Trauma/LDRP/Ortho ASC. Has 3 years experience.

I don't panic or get scared when I code someone because at this point after training and doing so many I know exactly what to do. AsIxchel said, it is an absolute blessing not to have to carry the weight of that emotion with every single death I encounter. If you work in critical or emergency care, it is a constant part of your job. Yes, I feel bad for the family members and wish that it would have had a different result, but all we can do is try everything we know may work, and accept the outcome no matter how unfavorable. If you were thorough and followed EBP, that's all you can do.