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places to volunteer to get your feet wet and see if nursing is for you?


I am a prenursing student, currently taking prerequisites.

In the past couple weeks, I have been starting to doubt my dreams of becoming a nurse because i'm not sure if i'm emotionally stable enough for it. What I mean is, I don't know if I'm able to have those boundaries between caring about and caring for, or if I can truly deal with death on a regular basis. I'm not saying that all nurses work in such environments, but I think it is important for a nurse to BE ABLE to work in such an environment. I have worked as an aide in a long term facility for adults with DD...but that was a pretty upbeat place to work because they were chronic care issues, not really life/death situations.

I was thinking about volunteering at a hospice to get my feet wet in an environment that deals with life and death.

Anyone have any suggestions for me? Anyone think that this is a bad idea and why?

Any suggestions would be helpful...


Specializes in acute care med/surg, LTC, orthopedics. Has 5 years experience.

A nursing home would be a good area for you to get your feet wet in the death/dying continuum. Many family members of residents employ sitters to stay with their loved one at the end of life, when they are unable to be there themselves.


Specializes in ICU, ER, EP,. Has 17 years experience.

Dang! Talk about addressing your fears head on!. What I wish to share with you is that hospice is VERY different from the death and dying in a hospital setting. I've never worked hospice, but lost my last two "dads" there.

Hospice is a generally peaceful place, where the majority of the family has accepted the patients wishes and strive to have a death in comfort and peace. This is in a place through home care or a facility where family is unable to do the 24 hour care of a dying loved one. Hospice nurses teach patience... "it's their journey, let them know you'll be strong and will be ok, talk to them...tell them everything you ever wished you could and get closure' Generally in hospice family has time, goes through the grieving process and death is mourned but celebrated... "thank god, he's not suffering anymore, finally peace".

In the hospital, death is the absolute failure, unless the patient was a DNR and passed that way. Death in a hospital setting in the first example is sometimes sudden... family is crazy, angry, volitile and unforgiving when it is unexpected. Some family have peace... "you've done all you could". Some demand you code a 100yr old contracted demented patient eaten up with bedsores.

Some families fight amongst themselves in front of your patient, even arguing about money and possessions. Some will never give up no matter how unholy and ungodly it is to the patient while others are quick plug pullers.

My long story not so short. 15 years in ICU, not much different from the floor, each death experience is unique due to family dynamics. There are some situations that I just truck through and handle like a champ, some I cry with the family and some I carry with me to this day.

That's what nursing is... balancing crazy or great family with your own experience through your patients death, usually while coding as well and trying to find yourself whole in 12 hours to do it again. And YES, sometimes it is beyond my being to show up the next day and do it again...

BUT when I make a difference and connect with a patient or family, and can honor their wishes and hold a hand and see them through... even through the mud slinging times... it is heavy on my heart, but somehow gives me strength to clock in the next day.

OP, it is never in any situation easy. But to have strangers trust me to carry them through this roughest time of life, even when they hate me and lash out... when I make a difference... I can do it again. It wears on you, but it makes me whole.

I'm in awe of the ability I have to make a difference. That may be enough for you too.


Specializes in Pshych; LTC.

Hey there! I understand what you are going through. I am wanting to get my feet wet. I am 45 years old, with a disability and as bad as I want to be a RN, I am not sure I can handle it mentally or physically. On top of that, I have not worked since December 2000. I have been wondering what I can do to start out slowly and work my way up to where I CAN handle it and you gave me an idea.

To answer your question, I think it would be great getting your feet wet first. I also had the same issue with being around death but working in a LTC and with deaths in the family, I became much stronger. After time I overcome that issue. Remember there are many different areas of nursing. My passion is Psychiatric Nursing. The entire time I worked in a State Psychiatric Hospital, there was not a death. What field are you interested in?



Specializes in Pshych; LTC.

You said it like a champ! Thanks!

That's the thing, I really don't know what specific area i'm interested in. I love kids, so definitely something in peds but I don't know what in peds. I was thinking pediatric oncology or NICU......but I really don't know....