Two deaths in one shift

  1. Two of my patients died within 4 hours of each other. The second one was of the unit for a procedure, where they died.

    This is was a hit to my soul.

    I decided I needed to take a mental health day.

    Im just wondering if anyone thinks that was a horrible idea? I know the unit is short staffed, but they can call agency.

    i just don't think I can face another day on the unit.

    does anyone have similar experience? What are people's opinions on this?

    My fiancé is sweet but has no idea about the medical world. My mom said tough it out and go to work.
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    6 Comments

  3. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from AnGG
    Two of my patients died within 4 hours of each other. The second one was of the unit for a procedure, where they died.

    This is was a hit to my soul.

    I decided I needed to take a mental health day.

    Im just wondering if anyone thinks that was a horrible idea? I know the unit is short staffed, but they can call agency.

    i just don't think I can face another day on the unit.

    does anyone have similar experience? What are people's opinions on this?

    My fiancé is sweet but has no idea about the medical world. My mom said tough it out and go to work.
    At the risk of being seen as heartless, I'm with your mother. Go to work. Patients' deaths can hit you hard, but if you take a day off every time your experience a patient death (or even two in one shift) you run a real risk of running out of paid time off. Not to mention it isn't healthy to get so wrapped up in a stranger's life that you cannot work when they die. People die. It's a part of life. Now if you weren't able to work because you contributed to that death by a medication error or by failing to rescue, I might advise you differently, but you didn't say that.

    Your cavalier attitude about leaving your unit short staffed ("they can call agency") is unfortunate as well. This is YOUR unit. Be the kind of colleague you'd like to have -- and no one wants a colleague who routinely takes mental health days.
  4. by   llg
    I totally agree with Ruby Vee. Was there something "special" about these deaths that is causing you to take them so personally? Is there something important you left out of your original post?

    It is one thing to be a little sad after a patient dies ... but it should not incapacitate you. Having 2 deaths the same shift can be a little rough, but again, it should not incapacitate you. People who work in ICU's, ER's, hospice care, mortuary care, etc. deal with death and dying every day -- and yet, they manage to go to work the next day. Take a few moments for yourself, say a prayer or do whatever else you feel you should do to honor your patients' lives, etc. but there should be no need to "take on the sick role" and take off work.
  5. by   kalycat
    Professional distance is a must in nursing. It just is. It's a must for yourself, but it is also critically important for your patients and their families. You are much more therapeutic when you can maintain an appropriate professional distance, and you will have a longer, more satisfying career if you practice good self-care.

    I'm on the code team for a level I trauma center and used to work 1500 - 0300 in the OR. I have definitely seen more than two deaths in one shift.

    Before I was a nurse, I spent many years working directly with families who had experienced the demise of a newborn; this was back in the late 80s/early 90s when such programs were new, and volunteers often assisted with transporting to/from the morgue and helping w/bathing, photos, and bonding time. I felt, and still feel, that it is a privilege to serve those experiencing loss or to care for those who have recently passed. So that's where I'm coming from with this post. I have had patients in my care pass unexpectedly - that always generates some reflection and self-critique of my practice and the case overall, but I've never missed work.

    I second the opinions above, and also would recommend you spend some time journaling or in self-reflection in order to assess why you feel so strongly about these particular deaths. Are you second-guessing the care you provided? Did one or both of them remind you of a friend/family member? Once you have done this, try to identify some strategies that you can implement in to your practice to establish and maintain therapeutic distance.

    You may want to consider consulting with your Employee Assistance Program (if available) for ideas.
  6. by   nurseburst
    I admit I called out the next day after my first patient death as a Nurse. But looking back I totally handled it wrong... and by it I mean my emotions and attachment to the patient.

    Now, although patients deaths still... SUCK. You should feel comfort in knowing you gave them the appropriate care and comfort before death...

    Talking to people who do not work in nursing or the medical field just usually doesn't work and it isn't appropriate.

    Talk to another nurse at work. I have bonded with quite a few of the nurses at my facility and we vent to each other as we need to.

    Thanks for the post,

    nurseburst
  7. by   Elladora
    I agree with mom. Go to work. If patient deaths are bothering you to the point you think you need a mental health day you may need to work on some coping skills. Taking the day off to fret over it will just make it worse. Best of luck to you.
  8. by   SeasonedTech
    Had 4 die in 1 shift. It happens. It's sad but it's just part of our job. That's nursing. I may sound insensitive here, but I've never taken a day off over a pt dying, if you are going to be in nursing you have got to have thick skin. Best of luck.

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