Saturday, November 2

All Souls' Day

Sant Serni de Canillo (Andorra, 2013)

Remembering all the deceased.

As a nurse, I deal with death more than I actually want. I remember my first deceased when I was only a nursing student during one of my first internships at a small, local hospital. The nurse I was assigned to, send me to a patient to take her blood pressure, only I didn't know the patient was almost deceased. So I entered the room and there were two people sitting next to the patient. Very quietly.  They nodded to me. They were family.

I told them what I was about to do. The woman in the bed looked like she was sleeping. I had a very hard time hearing the systolic pressure, because the patiënt probably had a very low pressure. At that moment, it occurred to me that the family was actually there, outside of the visiting hours, because clearly the woman was about to die. I was actually a bit mad at the nurse for not telling me about the patient's condition and just sending me in there on my own, just because she needed a blood pressure, written in the patient's file. Of course, 15 minutes later, she had passed away. Later that day, another patiënt had to be rushed to the E.R. because of an acute bowel ischaemia. She returned deceased.

Now, 8 years later, having worked on regular units and on an intensive care unit, I have seen many people pass away. I have seen people pass away after family has been waking near their beds for hours and hours. Just when the family takes a 5 minute break, the patient slips away. On the other hand, last month, family was waiting for one more son to come from a far region, he had to drive 8 hours to get to the hospital and told his brother on the phone to tell their dad that he was on his way to say goodbye to him and that he loves him. On intensive care, people are monitored continuously. Looking at his vital signs on the monitor, we didn't think the son would make it in time. But he did and the moment he stepped into the room and took his dying father's hand, the patient went into a flat line and his pressure dropped.

Death is a part of my job and I do feel gratification and satisfaction from family members of deceased patients. Just to be there, and also taking care of them, often means the world to them.

Often it's sad to see them suffer from their loss. But also seeing their relief, after sometimes weeks or months of coming to visit their beloved one on intensive care, and already having said goodbye to them, bit by bit, everytime they leave.


  1. When did you realize you could handle their passing?

  2. After a few 'experiences' with passing patiënts you learn to deal with it professionally. But sometimes, when it concerns very young people or even children, it's not easy at all. Colleagues form a good point of support in those times.

  3. Definitely. My mother was a doctor and talked about being personable but understanding the lines that must be drawn for the sake of the profession. It's good what you're doing, best of luck. :)

  4. I think it takes a unique constitution to be a nurse---you have to be soft and compassionate but not weak, dealing with so much death and sickness. I'm glad you are there to help people. :)

  5. The art of nursing is putting skills, experience and knowledge together with empathy and a caring mentality. They call it skilled companionship. Though I try to do my best on that matter every day, I feel like I have to perform so many actions and keep an eye on time, so I'm on schedule. I don't always have time for caring. That wears me out and I'm sure that a lot of nurses feel that way. Thanks for your sweet comment!


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