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Nurse Makes a Difference to Dying Patient

Nurses Article   (1,420 Views 0 Replies 876 Words)

jeastridge is a BSN, RN and specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).

5 Followers; 104 Articles; 149,359 Profile Views; 430 Posts

How Do Nurses Make a Difference?

Nurses make a difference every day. In this news story, we learn about one particular instance when a nurse helped a dying patient and his family.

Nurse Makes a Difference to Dying Patient

It happened on July 15, 2017. Loretta Seymour sat in the emergency room of a hospital in Ontario with her dying father. Diagnosed with prostate cancer the year before, he had been transported to the local ED for end of life symptom management. He was on massive amounts of pain medicine, but he continued to suffer, physically and spiritually. Feeling helpless beside her father, Seymour remembers a nurse coming in and providing a comforting presence that night. Her name was Omolara Ishola. When Seymour said her father was afraid of dying, Ishola offered to pray with the dying man. After that, she sang a song and then brought extra blankets to help keep her patient’s feet warm. These acts brought comfort and peace to both Seymour and her dying father.


“As awful as death is, it was a beautiful experience because of her.” - Seymour

Now, two years later, Seymour recently connected with Ishola via social media and they went on to meet in person. Expressing deep gratitude, Seymour spoke with Ishola through her tears and thanked her for what she had done that night. Characteristically, the nurse responded by saying she felt, “Humbled” by the recognition. She went on to say, “As a nurse, you do what you do not for the recognition. Patient care is provided because you want to make a difference in people’s lives. When you’re a nurse, you step into people’s lives most of the time at a very vulnerable moment and I have learned to understand that every man, every woman, every child, is someone’s relation, not just a number.”

Ishola’s example is inspiring. Even more, it compels us to examine our own practice for places where we can improve. Even the most seasoned nurses can benefit from taking a step back, from time to time and seeing areas where they might improve their practice.

How Can We Make More of a Difference?

Provide spiritual care- Assessing for spiritual care needs and making sure those needs are met is an integral part of excellence in nursing care. While we may not feel comfortable praying with a patient, we can all take steps to call the chaplain or the patient’s spiritual advisor. Ishola’s approach went beyond the ordinary; she made an assessment of the need and realized that she was able to help meet the need.

Focusing on patient dignity-

As Ishola said, everyone is someone’s relation, and everyone is more than a number. When we see them in their dying moments, as body functions shut down, and pain is front and center in our list of concerns, we continue to see their humanity. How can we show this in practical terms?

Employing appropriate touch- 

When we connect with the patient by touching their hand or shoulder, or trying to warm their feet, we go beyond medical interventions and reach the humanity of our patient. Touch centers them and us in the present, and lets them know we are with them.

Addressing the patient and family appropriately-

This nursing care intervention applies at all times, not just in the time surrounding death. Speaking to our patients with dignity and concern, conveys professionalism and can increase trust; trust will ease discomfort and anxiety. Addressing them appropriately goes beyond using surnames (or first names, whichever the patient and family prefer). It extends to talking directly to the patient when possible, using low tones to protect privacy and ease feelings, and not “talking over” the patient.

Focusing on the environment- 

Protecting our patients’ dignity also means being conscious of not talking loudly in the hall and being continually self-aware when with the patient and family so as not to increase their distress. The time surrounding the dying process is often difficult and precious time to the family. Of course, circumstances differ: it goes without saying that an untimely death is harder than an expected one, but even so, an elderly 95-year old’s death —even if anticipated—calls on us to be especially respectful and cautious in dealing with the feelings of those at the bedside. It is never easy to say good-bye to a loved one.

Make Encounters Positive

For Seymour, who continues to mourn her father’s passing, the nursing care she and her dad received in the emergency room that night made a huge difference. She feels that by contacting Ishola she has completed a task that would have pleased her father, “I feel like my dad’s message of thanks is passed along to her…I can’t tell you how thankful I am for this beautiful soul being there, comforting him.”

As professional nurses, we have many opportunities to impact our patients on a daily basis. Our approach and our attitude matters. As Ishola said during her encounter with Seymour, “At every point, I remind myself these are human beings, these are people you’re touching and you must make every encounter positive.”


Woman thanks nurse who prayed for dying father

Joy is a Faith Community Nurse and enjoys writing part time. She maintains a blog and has published both Bible studies and a children's book.

5 Followers; 104 Articles; 149,359 Profile Views; 430 Posts

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