Published Dec 1, 2004
I am pretty new here and still trying to get into nursing school. Sorry if this is a silly question, but I was wondering how you cope emotionally when you have terminal patients. Are they treated or cared for any differently to other patients? I guess its something that comes with practice but at this stage I really think I will have a difficult time not getting too attatched and becoming a blubbering mess!!!
Any opinions would be appreciated
Tweety, BSN, RN
Depends on what you mean by terminal.
Many alert and oriented walking and talking patients are dealing with a terminal diagnosis such as cancer or AIDS, and may not die while under our care that admission.
Or are you talking about those with impending death, that we care for and watch them die.
Either way, they aren't treated any differently than other patients. You stick to the basics. The person with impending death mainly just needs to be comfortable, and hopefully have appropriate medications for comfort. No one should be dying in pain and hopefully not in too much respiratory difficulty (although that's a tough one).
You're correct in saying it gets easy with experience. It's o.k. to bond with patients at any stage of wellness in my opinion (though there are many nurses who choose not to, but that's another topic) and to get a little emotional when they pass.
I do o.k. with death, and get emotional only if the family is around and needs my support.
ooops!!! Sorry for not being clear with my question. I was indeed talking about patients with impending death. Thanks for your reply. I think I will be a nurse who bonds a little with the patients as thats the way that I am - I just think I will have to make sure I find a way to separate work and home well so I dont constantly take negative things home to dwell on. It wouldnt do the patients any good if I was sad all the time:)
I work in Oncology, so as you can imagine we get many pts with impending death. I really enjoy interacting with people. There is nothing wrong with bonding with a pt, so as long as it doesn't impede your nursing judgement or your care of other pts. The nice thing about working in onc. is that all the other nurses are very supportive and that it is OKAY to cry! Sometimes it happens.
What gets me thru those moments, so that I don't take it all home with me? I truly believe in my heart that I have done my utmost best to make their last moments on this earth a little better and that the family will always remember how I handled their loved one with care, love, respect, and dignity.Those positive feelings outweigh the sadness, because it is not about me, but about that family and their loved one. It is an honor to be present when a person departs this life, just like it's a honor to witness the beginning of new life. It also helps to have a little cry now and then. Sharing your feelings with coworkers helps you cope in a healthy way. Don't dwell on the negative experiences too much, but learn from each one .Those things help a ton!!
Departments that have sick pts facing impending death need people like you and me. Someone who cares alot about making that person and family get through those tough moments. It's okay to cry, but also is helpful if you can recompose yourself in 5-10 mins. It is hard at first, but does get a tad easier to deal with those uncomfortable situations. I hope you consider going into a field like oncology, it is so very rewarding!! Good luck!!
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