The First Time I Had to Tell a Family That Their Loved One Passed Away

I originally wrote this in my personal journal that chronicled my first year as an RN. I was recently rereading my journal and reflecting on the years since. Nursing school doesn't always prepare you for everything. There were a lot of experiences I had as a new nurse that nursing school simply prepared me for, but did not teach me how to handle. Sometimes you simply have to trust that your heart will pick the right thing to do. Nurses General Nursing Article


You are reading page 2 of The First Time I Had to Tell a Family That Their Loved One Passed Away


12,472 Posts

Specializes in NICU, PICU, Transport, L&D, Hospice.

Very nice article.

I make a distinction between actively dying and actively living.

Most hospice patients are still actively living when they sign their election of benefit. They are dying, certainly, but mostly they are still engaged in living.

When they make that transition the hospice care changes.

As an aside to the core of the article. I always tell the family member what I am going to do, that I am going to confirm what they suspect and that it will take me a minute or so. While I am listening for that eternal 60 secs I also feel for a pulse. I smooth their hair (presuming they still have some) and gently stroke their cheek (are they cool to touch?). I touch their eyelids to check for blink. I hold their hand. It is different in the hospital than it is in the family home, never easy though.

Good job!


30 Posts

Specializes in critical care/ Hospice.

Ahhh. When I was an ICU nurse up until 18 months ago I never had a problem with "i'm sorry (mom, dad, grandma, your brother, wife, etc) has died. It became sort of "routine. But what was not routine was I was developing a dread, close to definitetly not liking taking care of pt's that really should be on palliative care vs " do everything" for a person long beyond help. So I left ICU and have now become a Hospice nurse. Best decision I have made as a nurse. Reality is common place and helping a patient die at home with the family doing the primary care is as rewarding as my first code resucitaion way back when..... Not everyone can deal with death but comfort care and compassion far supercede intubating everyone and starting pressors and dialysis, etc ....just bad medicine I could no longer be a part of.


1 Post

I came here looking for comfort and signs of the death process. My husband is an RN and I'm an interventional xray tech. My dad is on hospice and actively dying. I don't see what you all see at the bedside. I see a procedure that usually helps a patient and they leave my area. I see death, but not as often and not for prolonged periods of time. I'm seeing it now with my dad and it's very difficult. What you said brought me to tears. You have so much tenderness and compassion. Thank God for you. I try to treat every patient like my family. My husband does too. That's so important. This article helped me understand the dying process better and also gave me a better appreciation of all those who are there for the end of life care. Thank you.

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