And my patient just died.
After all my efforts to stabilize him since I received him from an unstable condition, he just left me. He was terminally ill though, and his doctor had earlier confirmed that he would go anytime.
I was there when he just stopped breathing. I checked his pulse and there was none. The relatives were beside and they suddenly started screaming and crying. I called a code, and started cardiac compressions. The code team arrived in a couple of minutes but the resuscitation efforts turned out to be futile. He was gone.
And so the patient under my care just died. It does not happen many times, actually the last one being a couple of years ago from my previous hospital. It is still quite a shock for me to have a patient die on me, and I think it is something that will be difficult for me to get used to, especially if you work on a unit where mortalities are less. Not like in ER or ICU. For me, death is something else, and when you are not used to it, it certainly is something else.
Nurses are encouraged to treat our patients like family members. We care for them because we want them to go out of the hospital well and soon. And so when a patient dies, it is inevitable to feel sorrow and pain. There is a certain feeling of loss and grief.
But being the patient’s nurse, I could not show my emotions at the time. I had to hide my sorrow to comfort the relatives who are hysterically crying at their loved one’s passing. I had to keep myself composed to be able to deal with the dead body in a respectful way. I had to wrap the dead body expertly, as if I have done this many times, to show the relatives around that I am managing the situation.
I had to make sure I was thinking straight. That I knew which ones to call to coordinate and inform about the patient’s death. That I knew which forms to fill up, and where to send them.
And after the body had gone to the morgue, I still had to deal with the messed-up room and the pieces of equipment that were used. Housekeeping had to be called, and used stuff had to go to CSSD box.
And then I go back to my six other alive patients, whom I had to forget for a while to concentrate on that patient who just died. Their medications were delayed and their needs were left hanging for a while. And now I had to care for them as if nobody died earlier. I had to attend to them as if nothing major happened earlier – as if things were running smoothly and everything was in control. Coz that’s what patients want to feel during their stay in the hospital.
I hate to admit it, but being a nurse requires you to be numb at times. You have to forget about your own feelings to help people and to get things done. You have to pretend that you are okay when you are not. As if you don’t have the right to be sad.
After the shift ended, I felt all the heavy emotions at once – exhaustion, sadness, grief. And this was the only time when I could show my true feelings – when nobody was around, and work has been completed.
Nurses have feelings too. We are also human beings and we get hurt also. When our patient dies, we also feel pain and sorrow. But at the work setting, nurse’s emotions do not count that much. We can feel it, but we cannot show it. We have to be strong and in control at all times. It may not be a written job description, but that’s what our job entails, and that is what is expected of us to be able to help sick patients and worried relatives effectively.
Nursing is such a noble job. Glad to be in.
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