Writer seeking help

  1. I am a writer working on a planned theatre project about what happens immediately after death in hospital.

    This was sparked by a story from a nurse friend about her experience washing bodies.

    I am interested in hearing stories about washing bodies. On the ward stories immediately after death.

    Who is there? How do you feel? How do others feel? Do you talk about it with other nurses or outside work?

    Is there anything mysterious which happens?

    Does it mean anything?

    Is it part of your work you enjoy?

    How do you feel telling the story?

    Any comments at all would be most welcome.

    FYI i'm a produced playwright living in Australia with work which has been performed here, ths US and Ireland.


    Mark Fletcher
  2. Visit jackblue profile page

    About jackblue

    Joined: Mar '03; Posts: 5


  3. by   Gator,SN
    I am interested in hearing stories about washing bodies. On the ward stories immediately after death.
    Mark, this seems a bit weird and morbid to me and I have no clue why you would post this in a nursing forum. This is part of a nurses job, yes, but not one that I would share with someone so that they could write about it. Think about the patients right to dignity and privacy even after death and perhaps maybe your own family member dying...would you want someone to tell a stranger all the details???? ewwww.

  4. by   jackblue
    Hi Gator,

    I'm not planning on writing word for word what I'm told. I am looking more for feelings. And in no way would I breach patient privacy requirements. But I guess you'd need to see the finished work to see that it is tasteful, respectful and compelling.

  5. by   CountrifiedRN
    Ironically right now this post is right above the thread titled "What's your dead patient story".

    The part of your post which concerns me is the washing bodies part. Sounds kind of strange. But maybe what you mean is post-mortem care?
  6. by   Stargazer
    Mark, I have a lot of friends who are writers and on the surface of it, I don't see any need to doubt the purpose of your inquiry. However, the details you're looking for may be fairly personal to many people here, including me. Before I answer any of them, I would like to know a bit more about your "theatre project" (play?) to get some context. Is this a comedy? A drama? A series of sketches or readings? Is the "washing of bodies" (or, as RN2bNC pointed out, actually postmortem care) going to be the whole focus of the project, or just one aspect? What is the message of the piece?

    I hope you appreciate that some of us aren't comfortable baring our souls on a relatively sensitive subject without knowing a bit more about how the information you collect will be used and presented.
  7. by   zambezi
    hello mark...Each nurse had different feelings on death and the dying process...I agree with Gator in that patients have a right to dignity and privacy, in life and in death. However, i feel like experiences can be shared as long as patient confidentiality is kept sacred....here are my feelings on working with patients and families through the dying process....it is different each time...There are many emotional issues that go on while/after a person has gone on. Part of that emotion comes from the means of death...ie. trauma vs long term illness vs 95 year old patient whos time has come vs child (plus every other situation that one can think of). I will always remember my "first death." The patient was not actually my patient but i remember requesting to assist in preparing the patients body to be moved because i wanted to see what it would feel like since i had not had any prior experience with death. I remember walking into the room, it was silent, all of the monitoring equipment had been turned off and disconnected after time of death was called. All i remember thinking was how spiritual it all felt. I can't even really explain the feeling that i get looking at a person that has just passed on...its like the body is still there but the spirit has been released, often the patients spirit feels as if it remains in the room with you. it really makes you take a step back and think...since i work in critical care, i often don't know my patients well...sometimes i will begin taking care of them in their final hours, therefore my experience is often very different than, say, a hospice nurse would have. Death usually leaves an aching feeling in my chest, I always remember this this is someones mom or dad, brother or sister, friend. I can't say that i cry in the moment, usually i am trying to think too fast for that, seeing the family occassionally brings tears to my eyes, it just depends on the situation. Telling a family that their loved one has passed on is difficult, i know that the family will remember that call for the rest of their life. Respect is paramount...if it were my loved one, i would not want those taking care of him to forget that he was/is loved, that the patient has dignity, even after death. There is family involved 99% of the time as well. We not only care for the patient, but their family as well. Sometimes the family remains in the room as the patient is dying, especially if death is near and the patient has a DNR. Some families say their goodbyes early and leave. If death is unexpected and the patient codes...it varies at each institution whether family can stay and observe. Each family is different, and the choice is theirs to make. It is our job to be respectful of each families choice and to support them through it. Some families do not want to be in the room at all. Some families do not make the choices that we as nurses would and can not let their loved one go...it is our job to educate with compassion and understanding and remember that it is not our choice to make After death, we wash the patient up. Once we confirm that it is not an autopsy case and it is cleared by the nursing supervisor, we remove art lines...vents...ivs etc. We change the sheets if they are dirty, and cover the patient with clean sheets. Often, family comes back again and says their goodbyes...i usually let they stay as long as they need to. For me, the process is much the same for each patient after death (some patients require more cleaning up than others) but the family interaction after death is always different. Some families want to be alone, some want the nurse there, and some families do not want to see the body, again personal choice. Every family reaction is unique, sometimes i am answering question after question...sometimes i am comforting through a touch on the arm or a hug...often i do not know what to say...and i know that silence is the best answer. The reason that i am writing this is that death is something that everyone will have to deal with at one point or another, and each person has their own feelings and routines they go through. The nurses that i work with have respect and compassion for the patient and the families that we care for, we know that it could one day be our loved one in the bed, it could be us.
  8. by   jackblue
    I appreciate the comments posted about my request.

    I am not sure at this moment about the form of the piece I am working on except to say that I am sure it will be from the perspective of the nurse or person involved.

    My interest is in the washing immediately following death and not what is done in the mortuary or funeral home.

    My interest began because of a story and how the person telling that story changed for the time of the telling. I felt priveleged to have listened to her story. I had no idea that such work as involved and had/have the deepest respect for what in means to the person undertaking the work and the deceased and family.

    One goal would be for the audience to feel what I felt from that first telling.

    Mark Fletcher
  9. by   fab4fan
    This is starting to sound a little creepy...what is with the fascination in the actual bathing of a deceased person?
  10. by   Flynurse
    I wonder if you mean that not most people realize what happens between the death of a person in the hospital and sending them to the mortuary.
    Which is what we do....wash the body, i.e. prepare the body for the mortuary. We call it Postmortem Care.
    I would suggest that to really gain the confidence of nurses to share their stories, you would have to provide some legitimacy of your project.

    We all have stories and feelings to share. Some stories are sad, some give a grander perspective to life and some can be funny.

    Good luck with your journey.
  11. by   sunnygirl272
    Originally posted by fab4fan
    This is starting to sound a little creepy...what is with the fascination in the actual bathing of a deceased person?
    does sound twisted...must confess to conjuring up strange and unsavory mental images of the OP....hopefully, i am mistaken....
  12. by   Lausana
    I'm still trying to understand what kind of theatre production this would be?
  13. by   Dplear
    Actually I can understand the interest in a way of the washing of a dead body immediately after death. For many cultures this is a very religious practice and involves certain rituals and items. For example when I was in Greece, I had to wash a body in wine immediately after death....it was part of the religious requirement for this patient.

  14. by   jackblue
    Oh, folks, don't be creeped out. Please. Gosh if writers were creeped out by ideas they explored then what we see in our theatres and televisions and cinemas would become bland and boring.

    My idea is about exploring a small aspect of life - one which only a nurse (usually) is party to. From the prescious stories I have been told so far (not on this forum) there is a broader story to tell.

    But maybe this forum is not the right place to explore it since so many want to question the messanger without actually exploring it further.

    Mark Fletcher