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You can listen to Episode 010 here.

Your first year as a registered nurse is challenging. This podcast is hosted by Kati Kleber, BSN RN CCRN and Elizabeth Mills, BSN RN CCRN and features experienced nurses from FreshRN.com, who discuss the basics of that first year. From nursing orientation, documentation for nurses, code blues, tricks of the trade, and personal experiences, to time management, delegation, patient deaths, and more.

Download the Episode 010: Dealing with Patient Deaths Show Notes or view them below.

This episode discusses dealing with patient deaths as it is happening right in front of your eyes, with tips for processing your emotions at home.

This episode discusses dealing with patient deaths as it is happening right in front of your eyes, with tips for processing your emotions at home.

Dealing with Patient Deaths

Communication

  • Educate
    • It’s really upsetting for loved ones, prepare them for what they’ll see
      • Suctioning, snoring, pain meds, gurgling
  • Communicate the medications you’re giving, what you’re doing before you do it
    • Talk to the patient as if they can hear, even if you don’t think they can
  • Be careful about your wording and tone
    • Don’t come into the room all peppy and happy
    • Words matter
      • Do not say, “withdraw of care” – rather, “withdraw of life support”
      • People may think that if the focus shifts from survival that they will receive less time and care from the staff
  • Don’t tell the family when/time frame, because you honestly don’t know and don’t want to fail to meet expectations

Practical things for you to do and know

  • Know your institution’s policies and procedures
  • Know when to notify the organ procurement team
  • Know the specific needed paperwork (release of body)
  • Remove restraints if appropriate
  • Know post-mortem care procedures
  • Know if the patient will be sent to the medical examiner because that will impact your post mortem care

Practical ways to support the family

  • Ask about religious or spiritual preferences, as well as culture to ensure they are prioritized and observed appropriately
  • Allow silence
  • Don’t rush out of the room
  • Make sure there are lots of tissues
  • Utilize other support systems – chaplains (who are usually trained to be with people in crisis, whose focus is to provide spiritual support and not convert people to specific religions), child life specialists, family supports
  • Transfer to a larger room, if possible

Palliative care and hospice

  • “Palliative care is whole-person care that relieves symptoms of a disease or disorder, whether or not it can be cured. Hospice is a specific type of palliative care for people who likely have 6 months or less to live. In other words, hospice care is always palliative, but not all palliative care is hospice care.” (Source)
  • Can help put the big picture together

More resources

When Death Comes Knocking for Your Patients: A Guide for Nurses and Palliative CaregiversWhen Death Comes Knocking for Your Patients: A Guide for Nurses and Palliative CaregiversEnd-of-Life-Care: A Practical Guide, Second EditionEnd-of-Life-Care: A Practical Guide, Second EditionTo Comfort Always: A Nurse's Guide to End-Of-Life Care (Second Edition)To Comfort Always: A Nurse’s Guide to End-Of-Life Care (Second Edition)

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