What's your "Dead Patient" story?

Nurses General Nursing


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250 Posts

Jemb.....Hugs! That must have been horrible!

Have no interesting death stories of my own yet. But my career is still young.


6,011 Posts


Jemb that is the saddest story. I'm sorry you had to experience that. That poor man. And you did well writing it up.

I have had too many expiration stories in my career. Not in the mood right now I guess to relate one.

night owl

1,134 Posts

I've told this one a few times so what's one more...In my very early days of nursing, had a pt who was pronounced, preped for the morgue and ready to go. I wheel him into the elevator. The door no sooner closed and this corpse let's out this big sigh and sits straight up on the gurney! I damn near pooped all over! The door opens up, I run out and leave the body riding the elevator. After about 15 minutes of composure I realize this body is still riding the elevator. Took someone else with me to check it out and there he was still sitting up on the gurney. The other nurse layed him down and checked his pulse and all. Yup, still dead. We then took him to the morgue.


94 Posts

When I was in nursing school in the early 1980's, two of my fellow students worked at a local hospital and they told this story: Charlie had helped his post-op patient get bathed and transfered him to a chair to finish shaving, no problem. A few minutes when Charlie returned to check on his patient, the man was sluped over in his chair pulseless and breathless. He yelled for Kris to come and help, picked up the phone to initiate a code and then they both grabbed the patient and threw him into bed. They appparently bounced him prettty hard because he then developed a sinus rhythm!

Another story I heard several years ago, I don't know if it's true but certainly sounds like what we do here in America.

In the state of NJ, nurses could not prounounce a patient dead The laws were changed so nurses could prounounce patient's dead in nursing homes. (apparently because MD's did not want to have to go out at night just for this).

A patient in an ICU expired, but had to be transfered (with vent, etc) in the elevator downstairs to the extended care unit, admitted, then the nure could prounounce them.


8 Posts

Ok, so maybe this sounds a little insensitive....but it was funny at the time....lol.

My patient died at midnight....the doc...who was expecting it, as was the family.......told me he would come in in the morning and pronounce. OK, I work in a hospital with NO air conditioning and its the middle of the summer. So, thankfully, the man is in a private room. We shut the door.....open the window and wait for morning. The LPN i was working with decided to play a little joke on me. She sneaks into the room and rings the call bell, then runs off down the hall.......lol.....

Of course i freak....wondering how the hell the call bell can be ringing from that room.....

Anyway to make a long story short , i found her hiding in another patients room.

Geez....ok.....it sounds pretty pathetic...but hey no one knew ....LOl.


269 Posts

I had to put thought into this one. You have to know first that I was terrified of death and dead people, irrational probably, but I was. I was working on a long term care floor as a Student Nursing Assistant in my perceptorship. I had never done after care. This elderly gentlemen pass on night shift. I came on for my morning report I was told that I would be doing the aftercare. I froze, my heart rate had to be 200. My preceptor assured me she would stay with throughout the procedure. OK deep breath. We get to the bedside. Turn this elderly man to wash his backside and he lets out this big gasping breath/burp. Needless to say I was gone straight through the curtain and out the door. My preceptor is laughing so hard I can hear her outside the room. With much coaxing I'm back in the room, do the care and then go home shaking and never feeling like I could return to work.

A few years later my beloved Nanny had a massive stroke. I stayed by her side in the ICU until she passed peacefully away. I did her care and went home. I was never afraid again. I actually was on the pallative care team for 2 years. Thanks Nanny I Love you


754 Posts

Specializes in Everything but psych!.

Jemb...what a terribly sad story. From all the stories I have heard from people who had a near-death experience, this man was not ready to die. He tried to come back, but couldn't. I can envision it this way. He saw the bright light and his loved ones were there telling him to come. He said I'm not ready, I have work still to do. He tried, but once he was back in his body, he realized that his time was up. He went to his loved ones "on the other side." It was his time. I strongly believe that if you had attempted to code him again that he would have died anyway. I have to give you a big hug for staying by his side and holding his hand. Bless your heart forever! :kiss


18 Posts

I don't have any funny stories, but many touching ones. I work on an Oncology Unit- most of my patients are DNR's. This one patient-an 87 y/o lady was very close to death. I walked in the room and she was holding her arms up, looking at the ceiling with a big smile and tears streaming down her face. And then she was gone. I wish I could have seen what she was seeing.


15 Posts

Specializes in L&D, ICU, pedi and pedi ICU.

Everyone has such different stories..some sad and some funny.

Here is mine:

In nursing school I did an extra internship at my local hospital of choice. One day I was taking care of an older gentleman who had a number of things wrong and DIC was one of them. He was getting IVF of D51/2 and was getting various meds. Well he used the call bell and told me he had to get on the commode. I transferred him there w/o difficulty and was changing his bed when all of a sudden he slumped over and fell off the commode...I did some fancy footwork to get around the bed to try to catch him but wasn't there in time. I was so stunned that I stood there and watched him for a few seconds then I yelled out to my other nurses...I couldn't reach the call bell. The two nurses that I was working with came running. By now he was bleeding from a scalp lac from banging his head on the floor and his IV was bleeding around the site and his eyes were bleeding. We heaved him on the bed and assessed for signs of life. Of course there were none. I was so scared that day-I had prior dealings with dead people as I was a CNA for 8 years before going to nursing school...but never had one die in my presence. I felt responsible. He did not get an autopsy b/c of his age..I imagine. It would have been interesting to see what the coroner would have said about cause of death. Later that week I had to meet with the college instructor and had to write up a paper on what had happened. I felt better after talking with my preceptor and my peers.:p


76 Posts


:o for your experience as a student. I had a similar one when i was in nursing school (15yrs ago). It was hard. I feel that the experience while still in a "learning" mode made it easier for me to deal with death as an RN.

I work emergency and have seen my fair share. It is never the same twice. It is up to each of us in our profession to be caring in death, wheather for the John Doe, or the Mrs.BigBucks.


12 Posts

I had been out of school 3 months working at a SNF.

The pt was a 99 year old woman dying when I started my shift at 3 pm. She had a temperature of about 104 at least and was totally unresponsive. The biggest snowstorm in years started at about 2pm.

At midnight she passed away. By then we had about 20 inches of snow on the ground. At that time RNs couldn't pronounce. The MD couldn't get in because of the weather and neither could the family. The odor coming from this poor woman was awful so we couldn't let her stay in her room with her roommate for another 8 or so hours. So we moved the roommate and cracked open the window. I ended up working 20 hours that night and he finally showed up when I was leaving.

I was definitely wondering what I was doing in this profession.

Specializes in Emergency room, med/surg, UR/CSR.

One thing that can be learned from a couple of these posts is that you treat the patient, not the monitor! That monitor can say NSR and your patient can be dead as a doornail.

On night in our ER a young guy came in complaining of chest pain. He was put on the monitor, and had the crappiest rythm I had ever seen. I asked the charge nurse if the patient had an IV and the charge asked the attending nurse as she came around the corner of the nurse's station. Her reply was "well, he says he feels better." The charge told her "Oh sure, they always feel better before they code." She laughed and went back in the patients room to start an IV. Needless to say about 2 minutes later, I was sitting in front of the station monitor and the patient went into vfib! I yelled that the patient was coding and took off across the nurses station to the patient's room. When I ran in the door the nurse looked at me, then looked at the monitor and I think she about peed her pants! The patient had that "I'm just about to die" look on his face then the lack of oxygen hit his brain and he went out. The ER doc was in there by then and thumped him on the chest and got him back! We got the IV and took care of him, but it was tense for a while there. I think that was one of the youngest chestpain/codes I've ever worked.

Like someone else said, that is only one of many stories that I could relate!

ER, you watch it!

We live it!


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