Tough shift. First death.

  1. Thought I'd share my emotional rollercoaster of a shift. Yesterday evening (I work 1500-2300 at an extended care facility) I went in to give a res. her 1700 meds and found that she was deceased. I was stunned for a minute - not because it was completely unexpected, but because no one *ever* passes away on my shift. I've worked at this place since I completed my PN in Dec/07. First time pronouncing. No one else on was terribly familiar with the protocol so I was essentially on my own (though did phone RN on-call to ask a few q's and get some advice). Oh, and then an hour later (still trying to make sure all the family members are aware and taken care of and getting the paperwork done), an HCA from our dementia unit asks me to come check a lady who has been palliative for the last week . . . yup, no pulse, no resps. Two family members are at the bedside. I go grab my stethoscope and check for the official one minute then get to turn around and tell them that I'm sorry but their mother/sister is gone. Never done that before. I'd never even met the family members before. Everything following went quite smoothly so I suppose I did everything right. I felt less than adequate, though, in the providing emotional support for the family because of my lack of experience. Thank goodness the chaplain stuck around to help out. My emotions were stuck on 'holycrapdidthatjusthappen' all evening. Phew. Glad I have a few days off now.
  2. Visit notanumber profile page

    About notanumber

    Joined: May '09; Posts: 80; Likes: 80

    10 Comments

  3. by   BmichelleRN
    That's rough but sounds like you did a great job...and the next time, cause there will be a next time, it'll be a little teeny bit easier.

    OH and I remember those shifts well. You just keep on movin on...
  4. by   UM Review RN
    My goodness~what an awful shift! I'm sure you did everything just fine. (((hugs)))
  5. by   nursemike
    My condolences. Do you have someone at work to debrief with? I found posting on allnurses to be helpful with my first unexpected death, but not really a substitute for talking to (and hugging) my more experienced peers and even my manager. And, really, even the couple of expected deaths (comfort measures only) were tough.

    So, anyway, <<<hugs>>>, and be nice to yourself while you're off. I expect just being there was helpful to the family members, and really, what could you possibly say to make it better? I'm sure you did your best for your patients while they were living.
  6. by   notanumber
    Yeah, my husband is a nurse as well so he's good to talk to (sometimes...), and I debriefed the night nurse (we work together every shift) and we had a good discussion. The on-call RN was very supportive and commended me (I get the 'you're very calm and professional for your age' b/c I'm 21. It's good and bad when you're a team leader, as just about everyone I work with is significantly older than me). Just couldn't believe it would happen all at once like that. "When it rains it pours" and all that.
  7. by   notanumber
    Thanks for your replies. Very nice.
  8. by   Suen
    It sounds like you did a terrific job for the shift. I work in an unit with a lot of dying. Personally, i don't like to deal with the family coz i get emotionally involved which hits me hard. Its different when you are the team leader, but in my case, i always know my resources, there are pple who are great at consoling family members, and they sure dont mind doing it. On the other hand, if you have taken care of the pt. for a long time, you have a certain relationship with the family, this makes it easier. In a catholic hospt., we also have the chaplin. Big help. But this is just one of the many to come. Keep up the good work.
  9. by   artist-rn
    Sounds as if everything went smoothly despite your nervousness. Experiencing a death is never easy, let alone, your first experience, but you handled the entire situation well. It does get a little easier over time.
  10. by   Tait
    :icon_hug:
  11. by   allison_lpn
    Sounds like you did a great job!! Enjoy your days off and take some time to do something for yourself!!
  12. by   MassED
    Quote from notanumber
    Thought I'd share my emotional rollercoaster of a shift. Yesterday evening (I work 1500-2300 at an extended care facility) I went in to give a res. her 1700 meds and found that she was deceased. I was stunned for a minute - not because it was completely unexpected, but because no one *ever* passes away on my shift. I've worked at this place since I completed my PN in Dec/07. First time pronouncing. No one else on was terribly familiar with the protocol so I was essentially on my own (though did phone RN on-call to ask a few q's and get some advice). Oh, and then an hour later (still trying to make sure all the family members are aware and taken care of and getting the paperwork done), an HCA from our dementia unit asks me to come check a lady who has been palliative for the last week . . . yup, no pulse, no resps. Two family members are at the bedside. I go grab my stethoscope and check for the official one minute then get to turn around and tell them that I'm sorry but their mother/sister is gone. Never done that before. I'd never even met the family members before. Everything following went quite smoothly so I suppose I did everything right. I felt less than adequate, though, in the providing emotional support for the family because of my lack of experience. Thank goodness the chaplain stuck around to help out. My emotions were stuck on 'holycrapdidthatjusthappen' all evening. Phew. Glad I have a few days off now.
    sounds like you did well. The hard part is the emotional support.

close