‘Nurses deal with death on a regular basis so why is the death of a dog still haunting me?’
I was driving home about ten o’clock the other night. It was a cold clear night and the moon was full. I was on the outskirts of a town in the countryside following another car on my way home.
Suddenly a dog appeared in front of me and I could do nothing to avoid it. Brakes on hard, but no use, the dog went under.
I jumped out. The dog was still on the ground. The owner was upset and apologised, saying it wasn’t my fault.
All in all, it was a bad end to the day. We managed to sort things out, took the dog to the vet, made sure the car was drivable and departed home. Nothing too exceptional, just an unfortunate accident and nothing I could have done differently.
So why is it still haunting me?
I am a nurse and have been involved with death in many forms and have been able to cope, so why am I getting upset over a dog? This has made me think about my role and how I deal with things.
As nurses we deal with different types of death depending on where we work. We have unexpected and sometimes violent and traumatic deaths in A&E, expected deaths in some wards and in care homes. We work in hospices, community and many other places and encounter death much more often than most people. We do what we can and make sure our patients do not die alone even if they have no body else. We comfort clean and care at all stages and personally I find it a privilege to do so. We deal with deaths we find difficult to understand and those we are praying will happen. We comfort relatives and try to empathise and help. I can do that but why is the death of a dog keeping me awake at night.
I think it must be because I feel helpless and could do nothing. As nurses we sometimes feel that I am sure but we do have things we can do. We may not be able to keep everybody alive and at times do not want to prolong the suffering but there is always something. The last thing we can do for our patients is to give them a good death and do our best for them and their relatives. I am sure that all of you can remember a particular death that has made you think of how well you and your team did to leave the relatives with good memories. I certainly can remember some and hope that I can continue to do it in the future.
In the meantime I will just have to work through my problems with the death of a dog whose name I do not even know and learn to cope with things that I cannot control. I suppose it is a good lesson about things that affect us in an unexpected way but I am not sure I completely understand it yet
Nigel Jopson is a support manager for Care UK