Post Traumatic Stress anyone else?


Hi everyone :)

I am sooooo glad that I found this forum. I have found that it helps to see that others are feeling the same way as do not feel so alone anymore.

I was just wondering.....

I have been a NICU RN for 2 years....and was given the best mentor and preceptor oppurtunites...which pushed me, and my training...only 4 months out of nursing school...I was taking care of the sickest babies, attending high risk deliveries....technical skills? awesome. Learning, growing...challenging....but......

Sickest babies=some that do not make it. New nurse with heaven bound infants=lots of sleepless nights.

I had a 36 weeker, a day after she started having high residuals, was put on a repogle suction, NPO, antibiotics etc....and 2 hours after I took report.....we were coding her, with the parents in the room. Epi x3, chest compressions for way longer than NRP suggests was extremely difficult...continues to be very hard to talk about.....

I LOVe being a NICU nurse...I am proud of how far I have come...yet...I know that this situation effected me greatly. I thought I had gotten through it...until...I went to Christmas mass at the Catholic church by the hospital, and the Bishop was the priest that had come when we called him to the unit...and there it came up again :(. It has been about 6 months.

For you, "elders"....was it like this for you in the beginning? Does it get easier?

Am I normal ? :confused:

Thanks for your response and your companionship...



409 Posts

Specializes in NICU.

Speaking from some personal experience, it does get a little bit easier. There are still going to be cases that stay with you for a long time. It's part of the job. But over time, it does get better. With experience comes the knowledge that you (and the entire NICU team) did everything that you could for that baby and their family.

Earlier this year a primary of mine passed away after a really long battle. He had a lot of issues, especially cardiac (missing a chunk of chromosomes didn't help either...). Long story short, his parents would fight us at every turn regarding his treatment. He needed to have his VSD fixed and his parents refused. 2 months after we initially wanted to do the surgery, his parents finally consented. But by then it was too late. He passed away shortly there after.

Now I have taken care of babies that have passed away before this, even had a primary who died. But this case was different. It did effect me for a long time afterwards. It still does to some extent. Every once and a while something out of the blue will remind me of him. I admitted a baby a few months ago who had the same name and was around the same gestational age, and it all came flooding back to me.

But it does get easier. I promise. The day that a baby passing away doesn't affect me is the day that I change nursing careers.

A few months after D passed away I heard this quote on a rerun of "er" and it really helped put the whole situation into perspective.

"Some patients get to you more than others. But you do everything you can, sometimes even more than you thought you could. And at the end of the day, you have to walk away knowing you faught a good fight".


188 Posts

Specializes in NICU. Has 11 years experience.

I have also been a NICU nurse for two years, and I find that the term and near-term kids that don't make it are the ones I have the most trouble with. When a micro doesn't make it, it is hard. But I find myself able to separate myself from that more. When a big baby who should have been fine doesn't make it, it really does take a toll. But I hear from my coworkers it does get better.

Part of what makes you a great nurse is that you had the empathy to be affected by this so much. But that doesn't make the sleepless nights any easier...


24 Posts

Specializes in neonatal icu. Has 10 years experience.

I have been doing this for almost 11 years, and it really never gets better with a term or near term. We know how sick they are, but unless there is a chromosomal abonormality incompatable with life is it ever easier. You just learn how to cope a bit better. I no longer lose sleep at night over them, but will cry all the way home (a 1 hour drive), I guess thats small progress.

No, it's never easy. This is why we have a support group on my unit. We meet monthly to talk about things like this. If loosing a pt gets easy, get a new job.


281 Posts

Specializes in NICU, adult med-tele. Has 6 years experience.


I truly beleive I have PTSD symptoms right now even though I haven't worked since April of last year. It's sensory overload for one thing. Just the noise, more than one Jet/HFO/Codeblue/needle thoracentisis going on in 1 room can be a bit much, KWIM?And no, it does not get easier. You can reason that a kid is better off passing on then staying here and suffering, but you still have to stand there and watch a family loose their infant. Letting yourself feel sad and even crying with your families will do you some good. I will NEVER forget the sight of our 6'5" Chief Neonatologist shedding a few tears after an unexpected loss of a LO.


146 Posts

Specializes in ICN. Has 24 years experience.

As someone else said, it's definitely part of the job. Let yourself grieve, rant, whatever--and make sure that when you go home, you leave at least 75 percent of the job, the babies, the stress at the hospital, and be with your friends, family, kids 95 percent. (yeah, I know that didn't add up.)

One December, we had four kids die in a less than three week period, including my long term primary. The day after he died, I began to care for the baby who was next to him because I knew that she was possibly going to go up to Baby Heaven, too. She went for trach surgery, seemed to get a little better--so I bought Christmas gifts for her and her siblings at home. The day I brought the gifts in, her sats were already in the 70s. We limped along most of the shift, the sats dropping lower and lower. I gave the mom the gifts with tears in my eyes, and watched as that beautiful girl died two days before Christmas. Then I called the doctor, the organ bank, the charge nurse and calmly began to do what needed to be done, all at 11pm.

Christmas Eve, I took my daughter shopping--and when I couldn't get what I wanted in one shop, I started to scream at the cashier. So totally unlike me. My daughter was staring at me in shock. We made it to the car and I cried for five minutes. The stress bursts out when you least expect it--and I had been a nurse for 16 years at the time.

But yeah, for the most part, it gets easier with time. It's easier with Baby A, who you don't know, than Baby B who you do. You learn to cope.


This topic is now closed to further replies.