What do you do when a child passes?


  • Specializes in Long term care and med-surg.. Has 12 years experience.

I've been in healthcare for almost 10 years now, starting out as a CNA I worked in nursing homes, than I finally got my LPN in 2005 and again worked in nursing homes. I am now getting ready to graduate with my RN in May of this year and am really excited to work at the hospital upon graduation. Working in the nursing homes for all those years i have watched many of my patients pass, but these were elders who were sick, tired and ready to go home. Death is a part of life, but I can honestly say that I am terrified of the day that I have a young child pass under my care. How do you cope with the loss of a child?

Specializes in Adolescent Psych, PICU.

I work in a large PICU and I've seen a lot of children die. You just deal with it and go on basically. It's easier if it's a child I don't know but if it's a child I have been caring for it can be really hard honestly. There are some children I still think about, think about how their families are doing, etc. Sometimes it takes me a few days to process it all.

There are children who are ready and want to die, there are some things in life worse than death. I've know lots of children who when they died and I was happy for them and breathed a sigh of relief.


598 Posts

I've only participated in care where we lost the child one time.

I was a Tech & did compressions on the Code Team.

I went home that night, hugged my kids, and thanked God that they were still with me.

I don't think it's the kind of thing you ever get used to. At least, I hope to God it isn't. :(

Pediatric Critical Care Columnist

NotReady4PrimeTime, RN

16 Articles; 7,358 Posts

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PCVICU and peds oncology. Has 25 years experience.

How about we move this thread to the Pediatric Forum? It might be seen by more people who would be willing to share.


95 Posts

Specializes in paediatric and trauma. Has 3 years experience.

Its so hard watching young childrens lives been taken away by illnesses and it is really awful when we have to watch this happen when young children die and we find it hard some people find it comforting to get counselling this helps alot


14 Posts

Specializes in PICU. Has 3 years experience.

I work in a PICU, as well, and unfortunately it is part of the job. It is very difficult, in my opinion, no matter what the situation. Sometimes it is what is best for the child, but it still is difficult when you have to wash them up and prepare them for the morgue. I think everyone has their own way of dealing with the situation. I am grateful I work with people that are like family because when something like that happens we are there to give a crying shoulder or to just be there for you while you take some time and regroup. You never get used to it, if you do there is something wrong. Every child and their family touch your heart. But like others have said you go home and tell your friends, family and children you love them. Good Luck in your new possition as an RN!

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

153 Articles; 21,229 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

My experience with children's deaths comes from an ER and pre-hospital care. It is very hard and never gets easier (been doing this many years). However, I think its suposed to be hard to deal with so that we dont' take life lightly.


9 Posts

I am finishing my first year of nursing school and I have worked in health care as a tech for almost ten years, my back ground was always in new born, and then the past few years I have worked in out patient peds. I was really considering inpatient peds for when I graduate....but now that I have a toddler of my own I don't think that I can care for dying children....my passion and enjoyment comes from children....if I don't think I can do it, would you suggest that I work with adults? Or can you give some tips on how to cope?


761 Posts

Specializes in pedi, pedi psych,dd, school ,home health.

I have been a pedi nurse for over 25 yrs; most of it with kids with developmental and medical issues. I have had many of my patients die; some i was closer to than others; but each one touched my heart... and each one was mourned. I dont think it got easier; even though for some it was a blessing and a relief for them. I did have to put it in perspective that these fragile children on earth are now laughing and running and playing in heaven. :heartbeat

Has 20 years experience.

It was a death of a child while I was working ER that caused me to leave nursing for a few months. Instead of venting or debriefing with my fellow staff members, I bottled everything up until it absolutely exploded. I simply couldn't go into work anymore. I didn't sleep at night. Every time I tried to sleep, I just dreamed about the whole situation.

I don't think it will ever be easy to lose a child. You need to talk with your fellow co-workers, hospital chaplain, your manager, or anybody who will listen. Cry if you need too (even men cry). Take a few days off if you have to.

It wasn't until I talked with a lady at church that I was able to cope. She simply looked at me and said, "Schroeder, you and I both know that that child is up in heaven right now and he is more alive than what he ever was here on the earth." When I have a peds death, that's what I think about that child running and jumping and laughing while up in heaven.


14 Posts

Specializes in PICU. Has 3 years experience.


The majority of the nurses I work with have children and when a child is very ill and/or passes, it is very hard for them. It is hard for everyone. I think you put yourself in the position of the parents and think "that could be my baby". I find what I do very rewarding. Many people ask how we do what we do, and I have to say it's what I was born to do. Yes you will cry, you will be shaken up and it won't be easy. But I believe what shroeder said, they are in heaven healthy happy and playing. If you really want to do peds you can always choose an area that you wouldn't have to face that situation as often. Like, avoid ER, NICU and PICU. I hope that helps a little. Good luck in school!


1,476 Posts

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU. Has 17 years experience.

If Peds is what you really want to do and is what you are passionate about, DON'T shy away from it just because you're afraid of a patient dying. It sounds like you're considering general inpatient pediatrics? If that's the case, you rarely will see a patient die. By rarely I mean rarely to the point that I work with many nurses who in their entire careers (20+years) on non-critical care pediatric nursing have never seen a patient die. You may encounter a patient that you send to the PICU that eventually dies, but it would be a rare chance for it to happen on your shift. Death can be hard, especially on kids, but I've found the best way to deal with it is to be open about it with coworkers, chaplains, and even the families themselves. My first patient that died when I worked in the PICU, I tried so hard not to cry so I wouldn't be considered "weak," but the family later told me that it actually made them feel better to see me cry because they knew she got great care from great people that really did care about her.

Again, if peds is where your heart is at - go for it. Everything else will fall into place

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