not so great day

  1. i am a bsn student in my last year of the program. while in school i am working as a patient care tech at my school's hospital. on friday while i was at work one of my patients died right after i took her 2pm vital signs. she was only 32. i know that death has no respect of age, but this has been pretty hard for me to swallow. i feel a little better today, but on friday i was ready to quit the whole nursing thing. i am so thankful for the little things in life now. what really bothered me was that this wasn't a big deal to any of the nurses on the floor. i guess they see it so often that they have desensitized themselves to patient death. i love nursing with all of my heart and i probably could never do anything else, but i think patient death is some thing that will always affect me. am i taking this too hard?
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    About ltm

    Joined: Jun '99; Posts: 43


  3. by   MollyJ
    Itm, I don't believe that the 32 y/o's patient was "no big deal" to those nurses, but they probably had some quieter ways of dealing with and showing it. I will admit to you (I'm an old nurse) that I have prayed the prayer, "Please don't die now; I want to get off on time," but when it does happen, we are all essentially touched by the fact that someone not unlike us (especially at the age of 32) has passed from us. Most of us put the energy of our sadness, our thoughts about our own death, questions of whether there was something we should have done differently for patient or family into the rituals and tasks of doing what needs to be done. But I doubt that one nurse did the drive home without thoughts of that dead woman.
    At the minimum, death causes all of us to notice our own finiteness, something we may not want to dwell upon.
    Hopefully, you've had a little time to process some of this and things are better. Your sorrow, the impact you feel only speak of your capacity to care. Don't lose that even as you learn to put the energy of your sorrow into the tasks that come along with death.
    Hang in there.
  4. by   Tleeves
    I thought i would share an experience with you. I had a 23 year old patient, bone marrow transplant patient, very sick, terrible mouth sores, he was panicked and so was his mother. His Vital signs were fine, the doctors examined him at 2030, they said he was fine, I called them several times that night telling them that the patient and his mother were just losing it, panicky, as they had been all day, the social worker came in and talked to them, I called respiratory therapy to see him at 2300, they said he was breathing well, even though his throat felt tight, no stridor, I was in the room with him all evening. then at 2310, ten minutes after the Resp. therapist left, the patient coded.We were there immediately when he went, there was a doc five feet from the door, we stared wrking on him rght away. But he Died. he had no heart rhythm at all, we never got a flicker of life the whole code. The mother denied postmortem, so we will never know what happened. probably pulmonary Embolism, or aneurysm, something we couldn't have seen. I wasnt a new nurse, I know I did everything possible, but it forced on me the reality that no matter what we do, some people die, and we have to live with that. We have to choose to accept it and go on. And no one expects us to hold up all the time under that much strain. It never gets easier, but in time, we all learn different ways to handle it. You will too. hang in there.
  5. by   janis
    I think that some nurses are hardened by what we see and what we feel. There is so much to do, and somehow, our feelings get pushed out. We need almost to have daily debriefing to deal with all the "trauma" that we experience in our lives as nurses. This is where our colleagues come in and chat rooms like this. There needs to a way to express things that we feel. Personally, I don't think I'll ever get over how I can help somone and their family through the dying process. It is a right of passage.

    [This message has been edited by janis (edited October 25, 1999).]
  6. by   mn nurse
    I spent the first 2 years of my career, back in the 80's, on a neuro/hiv unit, and we lost alot of patients. Back in those days, we had primary nursing, and many of our patients were hospitalized several times, so we got to know them quite well.

    I don't think you ever get desensitized to death, especially untimely death, but you do learn to accept death as part of life, and you do use your empathy to provide care and support to the family during the period immediately following the death of the patient. There have been many times when I've shed tears with the family, and I really don't think it made me less of a professional.

    The only ones who never get hurt are the ones who didn't care in the first place.
  7. by   Roach
    Two weeks ago I helped a 33y/o female w/liver failure thru a very scary and painful
    death. She was on our unit for five months waiting for a transplant that would never come. (due to fever and complications,etc..)
    Our whole unit seemed to be in moarning for this girl. No one would go in the room after her body was gone. Not even the housekeepers(they knew her also). We all finally recovered because we have no choice but to move on. Last night I cared for a 78y/o female in the same room, she passed away at 1920. I just happened to still be there finishing my charting. Her husband of 55 years was sobbing at the bedside. I then came home to my husband and children and ate chinese food.(ordinary night for them) They don't even know what we do every day. Well, they know but they don't and can't really understand how hard it is. To be able to be there in someone's time of need and be able to affectively assist them through this is a gift god gave us. Please don't leave the profession. You will learn to cope better. Sometimes better than other times. But caring is a good thing! Good Luck.

  8. by   ltm
    just a little thank you to all who replied to my email. your stories really helped me to cope. it is now 7 months until i graduate from nursing school and i cannot hardly wait. once again, thanks for all of your stories, encouragement, and advice.