Friday, March 16, 2012

everybody exits stage left, and there I stand

Being an ER nurse is weird sometimes. Especially when it comes to death. Most often when someone dies in the ER they are near death or dead on arrival. They die within a half an hour say, sometimes a lot quicker.

What usually happens is the doctor pronounces the patient. They tell the family they are sorry for their loss and exits stage left. Everyone else has already left. And there stands the nurse. The nurse is always the one left standing in the room when someone dies. Its like you can't leave. Someone has to stay with the family at least for a little while.

But it is awkard. You don't know the patient. You don't know the family. After you tell them you are sorry for their loss, then what? What do you say to someone who has lost a member of their family? Someone they have known and loved for years? Sometimes I will ask about the patient and listen for a while. Then I leave. I leave them alone. What else can you do? Hopefully there is more than one person so they aren't alone.

Of course people react differently to death. Some leave quick. Some want to stay for hours and have all the family members come to see the body. Some wail, some cry quietly. Some people don't know when to leave. It is often the nurse who has to gently suggest its time to go. Who else is going to do it?

My point in all this? Death is sad. Death is often unexpected. People react many different ways. No one trains us how to deal with sudden, unexpected death.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it normal practice to summon a chaplain, who is trained for such situations?

Gary - Oakland

girlvet said...

Yeah it is, if the family wants it, if the chaplain is in house and doesn't have to come from home.

Sheryl Sorrentino said...

I am writing a novel where a woman dies in the ER and her daughter comes to identify the body. Where do you move the body to after a patient dies? Thanks!