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‘I don’t know how to get over something that happened on placement’


Can you advise this student nurse?

“I’m a third-year student, on placement in A&E. Two weeks ago a patient came in who subsequently died while we were caring for her (I really don’t want to give details).

“After it happened I just got back on with my work and whenever I started to think about what had happened I just blocked it out. Even when I got home that evening I just kept busy and didn’t think about it because I knew I would be upset.

“But I know now that I need to ‘deal with’ what happened because I’m just lying awake at night worrying but I still somehow can’t let my mind go there.

“Weirdly, it’s not actually the first time I’ve experienced the death of a patient so I don’t know why this has affected me so much and I’m worried that I’m not cut-out to work in A&E, which is where I thought I wanted to be.

“Am I burnt out already? Does anyone have any techniques or advice for getting over this experience?”

- Anonymous

Please use the comments section below to share your advice

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Readers' comments (3)

  • I really sympathise with you! Losing a patient is tough and some will stick in your mind more than others, this can be because you recognise something in the patient that you can relate to (age, background, resembles a friend or familiar person), others you become close to while caring for them and with some you won't know why. In my experience the best way to move on is to talk through the experience with a nurse on the ward (who will probably have seen a similar situation before), your tutor or mentor to break down what happened and why. As students many of us balk at the idea of reflection but it really is invaluable with times like this.

    My final piece of advice is try to have some r&r and have some fun to help clear your mind.

    Don't write yourself off from working in A&E you'll be much better prepared to handle a similar situation in the future once you've completely digested and analysed this situation.

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  • We all felt like that when we first saw someone die in the work setting as student nurses, it gets easier to deal with as you get used to it in the job. Every death may well affect you, but that's because you care and that's a reason you are becoming a nurse, the caring profession. It's normal how you are feeling. Talk to someone experienced about it like your mentor, and do some reflection on it. I always use Gibbs cycle for reflection.

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  • Really sorry to hear about what happened, as previous posters have said as hard as it might be at the time, talking it through with someone is going to be more productive than blocking it out. Even though you've experienced death before, sometimes it's the circumstances surrounding the death that affect you more than death itself. If you can work through what it is that upset you and how to overcome it/deal with the emotions surrounding it I'm sure you will have no problem continuing working in the same environment. I doubt you are burnt out, you've just experienced something difficult in practice that you can work through with support and move forward in your chosen career. Please don't hesitate to ask for support, we've all been through something that has affected us but personally the support of my colleagues has carried me through multiple situations that I've found difficult and I've ended up learning from each of them. All the best in your final year!

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