My Very First Patients Funeral: A Thank You to Nursing Instructors

The funeral for my very first patient ever was yesterday. I began caring for him during the first week of my first semester of nursing school. He was a hospice patient and I was hired by the family to provide daily care. The family asked me to be a pallbearer.


My Very First Patients Funeral: A Thank You to Nursing Instructors

I almost declined because there were plenty of families available, and I didn't know if it was really my place until his wife told me that he had commented: "have Jeff carry me to my grave, I know he won't drop me."

I provided care for him twice a day 7 days a week for 4 and a half months. I know I gave him the best care I could but didn't really understand the impact I was having on not only my patient but the entire family.

Upon entering the funeral home I was greeted by the person after person that I had never seen. They all knew my name and thanked me for the wonderful care I gave their grandpa and uncle (depending on who I was talking to).

They referred to me as Jeff - Don's nurse. I attempted to tell them that I wasn't a nurse yet but after the third person told me I gave him better care than any nurse they ever saw, I accepted the title as "Dons nurse".

I was very gracious and did my best to remain professional. I admit I had gotten too emotionally involved with him as we had a lot in common, and he was my very first patient.

Don knew I was in nursing school and never hesitated to let me "practice" taking his blood pressure or fine tune my physical assessment skills. Through the weeks I watched him grow closer and closer to death, and it wasn't until the last week that he could no longer speak with me about the horses or the John Wayne movies that we would watch together.

The eulogy was beautiful and delivered by his daughter who I had met once at his 80th birthday party. She mentioned my name and commented that you couldn't talk to him without hearing how great Jeff was and how he was the only one that didn't hurt him.

He had a leg amputated due to diabetes and his other foot was severely necrotic. He also had a pressure sore that was close to a level 3 when I began caring for him. He required lots of turning and repositioning as he was unable to get out of bed. I was able to get it healed completely.

She spoke about how it was I who made his last days as enjoyable as they could be and they couldn't have asked for better care. I remind you this was in the middle of the eulogy!! Yeah, I cried, how could I not.

I didn't share this with you to tell you what a great nurse I think I am. I'm not even close to a nurse yet. Just wanted you to know that by teaching us how to care for others. You are caring for more people than one nurse ever could. Thank you

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canoehead, BSN, RN

6,841 Posts

Specializes in ER. Has 30 years experience.

Right on! It's a huge load off the family's mind when they know they have a good nurse. You did a great job.

JustEnuff2BDangerous, BSN, RN

1 Article; 137 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg/Oncology. Has 2 years experience.

Don't short change yourself - what you did for your patient and his family is what nursing is all about! It is not about a title, or a credential, or a diploma, or a degree. It is about showing compassion and love to people when they need you the most. You made a profound impact on your patient and his family, and you should never downplay that, it is the biggest blessing we can receive as nurses.


13 Posts

Specializes in neonatal intensive care. Has 11 years experience.

I completely agree with the impact our mentors can have on our care. My first preceptor after nursing school was a 20 year veteran but she had never seemed to slip into the trap of being jaded or biased. She taught me that we have a duty and a privilege to care for these tiny babies to the best of our abilities. I heard her but I really didn't understand until I went to my first patient's funeral and the family had the minister thank the nurses for what they did for their little boy. I was shocked! All I had thought of was that I needed to support them in the time of their need (both in the hospital and after the baby's death.) I realized that we as nurses really have a tremendous impact on the families and patients that we see and care for as we go about our daily routines. It is a lesson that I have not forgotten. Thank you!:nurse:


10 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg.

What a moving story.

This reminds us all of why we do what we do.


9 Posts

Specializes in Cardiac.

Great story. Really touching. It kind of plays into what I've been thinking and it's this. To anybody that's even remotely involved in long term nursing care- you're far more emotionally stronger than I think I could ever be. I work in an acute care floor and am trying to go to OR. Apart from the "frequent fliers" I rarely ever connect with my patients on the level that the OP said. It's easier for me just to walk out after a 12 hour shift and end it at that. But to those of you that can take care of the same patients day in and day out and really know them, that's amazing. I can remember balling my eyes out after 2 of my patients died at a nursing home during my clinical period a few years ago; it was like losing family. Anyway, to end it, I'll repeat myself. Keep doing what you guys are doing because to anybody that tells you that that type of nursing work isn't skilled nursing is lying.


1 Article; 11 Posts

Thanks for sharing. This is really what nursing is all about. The technical stuff if important, but after all the years I've been a nurse, your story is like the ones that mean the most to me - just the patient care - not so much WHAT was done, but how I did it and the impact it had on others

chocokat79, BSN

182 Posts

Specializes in Aged Care. Has 12 years experience.

Thanks for sharing, you made my cry :crying2:

Even though you still haven't graduated, you are a NURSE because of your compassion for your patient and his family. The mere fact that the patient himself said that he received the best care from you.. well.. that says it all. God bless on your career. I hope to be a good nurse like you someday :bow:


12 Posts

:bluecry1: uhhh wow.. Raise your hand if you made it through the OP's post without crying?? Any patient is lucky to have you as their nurse...keep up the good work, and stay positive. I think so many times nurses get too burned out and just go through the motions but now you know what a difference you can make with the right attitude..good job! God Bless you and good luck in the future.

BTW...Thank you for what you contribute to nursing!


86 Posts

I have been to a number of patient funerals, in hospice care and outside of that. Families are always appreciative of your care even if at the time of the care they may have snapped at you more than once! And it is a humbling experience when they make mention of you at the service or send cards of thanks.

Awesome job! You provided a lot more care and compassion than what was required, and it made a huge difference. You should be very proud.


18 Posts

Good job! I know situations like that can be hard.