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‘I don’t think I can deal with death’


Can you advise this student nurse?

“I’ve just finished a placement in A&E and am struggling to come to terms with it…

“I witnessed two sudden deaths while there and without going into details, both were shocking and unexpected.

“I used to be really confident and not really fazed by anything but this has really knocked me. I’ve never known anyone die but thought of it as a natural part of life and didn’t think it would be affect me so much. But I’m struggling to sleep and keep thinking about those poor people and what they went through.

“I desperately don’t want to go back to uni in January. Even though I’m going to be on a different placement I’m so worried about people dying.

“Is this normal?! How can I regain my confidence? Or am I just not cut out for nursing if I can’t handle death?”

- Anonymous


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Readers' comments (5)

  • I'm sorry to hear about your experiences, they sound really traumatic. I think it's perfectly normal to feel the way you do and it's the fact you've been so affected that will ultimately make you a good nurse. After you, if you didn't care then what sort of nurse would you be? It's about finding a balance between feeling sad for the events and looking after your emotional health and wellbeing. Talk to someone; a mentor, personal tutor or anyone you feel comfortable with. I'd also suggest spending some time with a bereavement team. I had a similar experience on an A&E placement and I can honestly say spending time with the bereavement team was still the most profound experience of my training. I hope you can get through this and continue with your training.

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  • I work as a palliative care hca and have many students come to the hospice worried about seeing someone die,I'm sorry to hear you witnessed some traumatic events while in A and E I can only imagine how bad it was,did you ever get any support from your mentor or team after the events, we have sessions at the ward that after a traumatic or sad death we get together and talk through what happened and why it was so bad seeing anyone die is always sad but when it's your first experience and its bad it leaves the mark your going through what yr are you many 1st years end up with these placements without prior warning about what can happen the only thing is that not everyone dies in horrible circumstances it really does sound like you need to find either a fellow student nurse mentor or tutor that you can talk through how you feel which is ultimately grief for the Patients I hope you don't let the experience ruin your career as a nurse caring this much shows how good you are

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  • Hi, I am sorry to hear of your experience! I am a student nurse and have yet to face a patient dying. I would recommend some counselling or/and contacting the bereavement team as Lisa Daly mentioned.
    Please do not stop your nursing. I have been told that some of the best nurses question themselves and have a greater awareness. My advice is keep going!
    All good wishes,

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  • Please please don't your recent experience blind you to all the reasons you came into nursing; It sounds like you have had a horrible time and I will re-iterate what is being said already; please talk to your tutor or mentor. Bereavement personnel will also be good to talk to. Depending on the areas we choose to work death is not generally a day to day occurence, it is sad and shocking when it occurs unexpectedly but remember our duty of care continues until the bereaved and the patient have left our area; to focus on this can help you through the most difficult times. Talk Talk Talk but please give nursing another chance.

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  • I can totally relate to how you feel, as much theory as you do in university cannot fully prepare you for what you will witness in practice and how you will react to it. However please don't let this discourage you from completing the course, you are given opportunities as a nurse to make such a difference to people during their hardest times. When I was struggling my mentor told me as soon as you stop feeling compassion and empathy towards your patients and sadness at what they are having to experience is the minute you should leave. You sound like you have the personality and ability to be a great nurse.

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