Losing patients - does it get easier?

  1. I am still in nursing school right now, but I'm doing my clinical rotation in oncology and the patient I took care of this week died. Not while I was there, but I saw the obituary while I was reading the paper. I know I didn't know my patient at all but I was still upset to see the obit. I just wondered if this gets easier or not - or if there are ways to deal with it that don't involve becoming completely detached from your patients.
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    Joined: Nov '06; Posts: 266; Likes: 79

    13 Comments

  3. by   luvdancink
    I worked 1 1/2 yrs in oncology. Yes, it does get easier. When you see your patients suffer day in and day out it is almost a relief sometimes when their time comes. Sometimes, especially when it is unexpected, it can be tough. However, My preceptor as a new grad told me, families remember births of loved ones and deaths of loved ones. If you can make the death of a loved one a little easier for someone, than you have benefited them, even if you haven't helped to cure the patient.

    ~Kristy
  4. by   Chaya
    I agree with Kristy. Curing or even improving your pt's condition may not be a possibility but if you can assist and guide the family through this difficult time then you have performed a great service for your pt. And post-mortem care done with respect and caring, though painful to do, is a form of pt care at its purest; a crucial last service you can perform for the pt and you will come to know that you have helped.
  5. by   SuesquatchRN
    I work in LTC and, although my folks have lived full lives unlike the often young in oncology units, death is still painful and sometimes long. And I'm always relieved to see them go. Sad, but glad for them that their suffering is alleviated.
  6. by   CriticalCareOnc
    watching my patients live through the pain and associated physical and emotional effects of cancer is painful to me. It is even more compounded when the prognosis is very poor, when the quality of life is poor, etc. you cannot avoid but be attached to your onc. patients and their loved ones. onc nurses offer tremendous support for cancer patients. to answer you question, yes it does get better but you will still feel some prick in your heart. it's not easy coz nurses are people too. good luck to you and may you future L&D nurse!
  7. by   jill48
    Yes, it does get easier. Hang in there.
  8. by   bigjay
    I've worked in oncology and palliative care for almost ten years now and it does get easier. You gradually learn to accept that death is simply a part of life and is often an end to pain and suffering... or else you go work in a happier place.

    Oncology is one of the most demanding areas to work in but it's also one of the most rewarding because of the wide range of physical, emotional and spiritual issues you have to deal with on a daily basis. I love it and wouldn't work anywhere else.
  9. by   Irishgirl
    Quote from luvdancink
    i worked 1 1/2 yrs in oncology. yes, it does get easier. when you see your patients suffer day in and day out it is almost a relief sometimes when their time comes. sometimes, especially when it is unexpected, it can be tough. however, my preceptor as a new grad told me, families remember births of loved ones and deaths of loved ones. if you can make the death of a loved one a little easier for someone, than you have benefited them, even if you haven't helped to cure the patient.
    this is true. however, the day you stop feeling empathy for people leave nursing. never let cynicism cloud your human qualities. it sounds like you'll be a very caring nurse.
  10. by   Annebug
    I just started (today) as a new grad in oncology nursing. My personal experiences drove me to this field. Right now, I can't imagine a more rewarding career. I helped people today who are going home, going on to hospice care, and who will probably terminate on the unit. They were all so thankful for a kind word, a few minutes to talk, just getting cleaned up, etc, etc. I just love caring for the folks who need it the most. I'll post again once I'm a few months into it, and I've experienced some losses. I know it will be hard, but I hope that I'll appreciate the difference I made.
  11. by   leslie :-D
    as a hospice nurse, i deal with many, many ca pts.
    i've come to understand the dying process and have found it to be a humane and peaceful process.
    to this day, i struggle with those who didn't die as it should happen.
    it is when i see pts struggle, death can be the relief.
    it's always tragic when disease claims the lives of the young.
    but if you know that you did everything humanly possible to ease one's suffering, then you served them well and can find solace in knowing that you shared their pain.
    onc and hospice nurses often get burnt out if they don't receive adequate resources to ease their burdens.
    i have found that simple, sincere eye contact, a gentle stroke on the head or shoulder and true empathy, goes a long way in healing one's soul.
    often, these simple interventions are much more worthy than all the chemo in the world.
    never lose your sensitivity to those who suffer, and you will do well.

    with peace,

    leslie
  12. by   pickledpepperRN
    Quote from earle58
    as a hospice nurse, i deal with many, many ca pts.
    i've come to understand the dying process and have found it to be a humane and peaceful process.
    to this day, i struggle with those who didn't die as it should happen.
    it is when i see pts struggle, death can be the relief.
    it's always tragic when disease claims the lives of the young.
    but if you know that you did everything humanly possible to ease one's suffering, then you served them well and can find solace in knowing that you shared their pain.
    onc and hospice nurses often get burnt out if they don't receive adequate resources to ease their burdens.
    i have found that simple, sincere eye contact, a gentle stroke on the head or shoulder and true empathy, goes a long way in healing one's soul.
    often, these simple interventions are much more worthy than all the chemo in the world.
    never lose your sensitivity to those who suffer, and you will do well.

    with peace,

    leslie
    My brother in law was overseas on vacation when he became ill. He remembers waking up, a nurse touched his shoulder, smiled, and said words he didn't understand. He was so reassured by her kind tone of voice, eye contact, and smile.
    She then left and brought someone who spoke English.

    Leslie tells it right!
  13. by   sassyrn07
    hello all,
    my name is katherine and my mother died 5 years ago while being treated for leukemia, she was 55. during the eight months that she was treated at ny presbyterian hospital,(cornell) in ny, i met the most wonderful and amazing nurses. they became a part of our family and they took such great care of mom. i was truly touched by the amount of care, compassion, and genuine affection that they showed mom. i have never met a more special group of people than those diagnosed with cancer and the nurses who care for them. oncology is indeed a difficult specialty to work in and here are these special nurses who are dealing with death and loss on a nearly daily basis and yet they still allowed themselves to care. i am now an rn and about to start my career in an icu 12 month internship program but perhaps one day i'll find myself in oncology caring for patients as my mom was cared for......i just remembered how mom's nurses even sent a condolence card to our home after my mom died, so thoughtful. i never was able to go back and thank them, i wish i could now, i wonder if they're still there...just thinking out loud.
    Last edit by sassyrn07 on Jun 29, '07
  14. by   radoncrn
    As nurses we need to remember the entire spectrum of life care. Sometimes the most satisfying thing I do as a Radiarion Oncology Nurse is empower my patients to make their own end of life decisions. A well thought out plan at the end of life is as lovely as a well thought birth plan.

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