PHI 413 How often do you engage with or witness death in your work?

PHI 413 How often do you engage with or witness death in your work?

PHI 413 How often do you engage with or witness death in your work?

Over my last two jobs I have seen death on a frequent basis. My current job I am a chemotherapy infusion nurse, while my previous job I was a hospice nurse. With my time as a hospice nurse, I started being very uncomfortable about patients dying and something that really got to me over the first handful patients that passed. Overtime I began understanding better the dying process and where the massive benefits I really did provide to these patients. Just because the patients were on hospice, it did not mean that they did wish to die. Very Well Health (2022) says that “Choosing hospice does not mean giving up”. It is allowing the patients to be overseen by a medical professional and making their end of life transition process being as comfortable as possible. I would not say I got numb to patients dying, but rather I understood it more than when I did when I started there. At my current job as an oncology infusion nurse I still experience death on a frequent basis. The patients I am seeing are ones that are going through treatment and really are trying to slow or reverse the disease progression that they are experiencing with. Since these are the patients who are trying to fight their disease progression, their deaths are usually more unexpected and hit a bit harder that my hospice patients. I am really thankful for having the hospice experience so I can relay what I have learned to my infusion patients who may have questions about the dying process. I can describe to the patient what Traditions Health (2021) as the Three Main Stages of Dying. My past experiences have really allowed me to become a better nurse in my current position.

Traditions Health. (2021). What are the Three Stages of Dying? Retrieved from https://www.traditionshealth.com/blog/what-are-the-3-stages-of-dying

Very Well Health. (2022). What is Hospice Care? Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/does-choosing-hospice-care-mean-im-giving-up-hope-1132619

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How often do you engage with or witness death in your work? How has this experience or the lack of it shaped your view of death? Has it gotten easier or harder for you to accept the fact of death? As you explain, include your clinical specialty.

I encounter death almost daily or every other day. The form of death that I encounter in my line of work is heart very heart breaking, not that death in general is heart breaking. I work in OB/GYN, and have been in this field for over 7 years now, first as a medical assistant and now a nurse. When I first started 7 years ago and I had my first patient that just recently found out that she had a fetal demise it was challenging to accept that I would be dealing with women who are having a miscarriage. As they years have gone on, it is easier to deal with the fetal demises and the knowledge on how to properly comfort and educate the patients. To me the first trimester losses are the easiest for me to deal with, the second and third trimester losses are very difficult. There are a few patients that I remember and their cries as they find out their baby has passed at 36 weeks along. I had a patient that I formed a bond with, as I was her medical assistant her entire pregnancy, she was having twins. Both babies were born very healthy, a year passes and she comes back in for a consult. As I am talking with her about the reason of her visit, she informed me that one of the boys crawled their way to the family pool and drowned on accident. While in the room with the patient I could not help but just cry with her. That was one of the hardest deaths in the medical career. I had another lady find out around 17 weeks that she had a demise. While I was down at the other end of the building, you could just hear her wail and cry. While the death I deal with is not due to old age, injuries, medical illness, or with humans outside of the womb, it is very difficult to deal with at times.

I, too, have had to deal with a fetal demise at work. I am not in the Mother/Baby ward, so I am extra not used to it. The woman knew she was miscarrying, it was her 3rd miscarriage, and was on my floor waiting to go to surgery to have her dilation and curettage, as her body was not expelling the pregnancy on its own. Right before going to surgery, she called me to the room, as her baby had finally come out. She had been 6 months along. She was stable after that, expelling the baby had stopped her hemorrhaging and so no longer needed to go to surgery. But, I still had to ‘process’ the baby by weights and measures and stuff and I had never done anything like that. I had to ask another nurse to do it with me. It was just so sad and bewildering. The mother was visibly sad and crying, but not shaken. She had requested time with her baby to see it and say goodbye, and so I presented it as best as I could come up with at the time. There is a reason I am not in the field of pediatrics. I can see how it can take such a toll on a person to see that so often. That sight I can still see and remember so clearly. It was definitely hard on me, I couldn’t imagine how the mothers get through it.

I can’t imagine going though fetal deaths at work and how difficult that is. Deaths in general can be hard, but I feel

PHI 413 How often do you engage with or witness death in your work
PHI 413 How often do you engage with or witness death in your work

that fetal deaths would be worse because you also have to hear the heartbreak of the family. Remember that sometimes all someone needs is a hug. Even though not everyone likes to embrace, sometimes family members just need you to be there (Ferial, 2020). You may be that person when they need a hug or a shoulder to weep on. You’re not required to speak at all times. Don’t be afraid about saying anything inappropriate. Not saying enough? Don’t worry about it. Since there isn’t a correct response in this situation, you should just go with your gut. For me, that usually involves stillness while I wait for them to speak. I’m there and I’ll talk to them as well if they speak up and want to chat further about what’s going on.

Reference:

Ferial, R. (2020, February 13). Patients die. here’s how to deal with it. Medical News. Retrieved September 23, 2022, from https://www.medpagetoday.com/publichealthpolicy/generalprofessionalissues/84864