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'I experienced a death on placement'


Can you advise this student nurse?

“I am a children’s nursing student in my second year. A patient I was helping to look after suddenly deteriorated and died while I was on shift, and I got so upset. I felt unable to help the other staff with anything that followed and didn’t feel I could talk to the parents because I was so shaken up and didn’t want them to see me like that.

”All the team were so supportive and told me it was normal to be this upset. Despite all of the reassurance, I have now completed my second year and am worried that once I am qualified, I will still not cope with death but will be expected to.

”I saw someone close to me die and thought I could handle anything because of it, but now I’m confused because of my reaction and think maybe that I am too emotionally involved to be cut out for this?”

Please use the comments section below to share your advice



Readers' comments (3)

  • The last thing you would want is this not to affect you. I recently saw an experienced qualified nurse break down in tears. She had been expertly supporting a bereaved family with the expected death of their relative when there was a second unexpected death in her team. I myself asked not to look after a dying lady a just a week after my mum's death. You did the right thing in acknowledging you were to upset to care for the family. I am glad you felt supported by people around you. The second year is always the hardest year. You are near and yet so far. Don't expect yourself to be perfect, no-one is. talk to people who understand, have good cries, if possible take time off, and use it to look after yourself, in time it may help to reflect on what happened, and think about nurses who helped you through this so you will be able to pay it forward.

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  • I agree with the comment before, I am also a student nurse but worked in EMI care homes for 5 years before but dealing with a death does get easier the more that you do it. It helps to be around experienced people and people who can support or advise you through it. It's a tough part of the bin especially in paediatrics. Good luck in your third year x

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  • I'm at the end of my first year, I experienced my first patient death on my first ever week on placement as a student nurse. The man I had cared for the night before, who I talked to about him getting discharged the following morning had died in the night. I was asked to do the last rites by my mentor (deputy ward manager). Another nurse, who was so lovely, showed me the ropes, but the longer I was with the patient and noticing all the peculiarities of death the more I felt upset. When the nurse spoke to the patient as if he were still alive, I started to cry and the nurse reassured me that this was a lot to experience on my first week of first placement. By the end of my 7 week placement another patient, I had built a relationship with passed, and I was better able to give him the dignity he deserved in death.

    My ward manager told me that showing emotion shows you care, but like a mum (which I am) we stay strong to support the patient and their relatives.

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