In the mix: When a nurse loses her first patient ...

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, February 2, 2009

by Chelsea Bancroft, RN

Being nurses, we have to struggle with so many obstacles such as working long hours, working weekends and holidays, and dealing with the occasional tough patient. But recently, I dealt with what I feel is the hardest part of our job: death.

I know it's a part of our job and I'm going to get used to it, but my first death took a pretty good toll on me. First off, it was on Christmas. Secondly, I was the one that made the call to the family. We all talk about it, but when it actually happened to me, I was sick to my stomach the whole day.

I fought back tears the entire day. It happened at 9:30 a.m. so the rest of my day was spent dealing with the medical examiner, organ donation banks, the family, and my overwhelming feeling of sadness. Thankfully, everyone I worked with was so supportive and helped me through the whole process. Without the help of the other nurses, I don't know what my day would have turned into.

The second I walked into the parking garage, I lost all my self control and couldn't stop crying. All I wanted to do was get home to my family on the holiday, but I couldn't even drive I was crying so much. I don't know if I was crying because the patient died or because I became aware that death is such a huge part of what I am doing with the rest of my life. It scared me. But then I felt almost honored that I was a witness to something so intimate; that I was there when the patient breathed his last breath. As nurses we get to be a part of the most pivotal moments of life and death: the first and last breaths.

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