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'It's okay to cry about our patients'

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How do you come to terms with a patient telling you they’re ready to die?

I had been nursing an older male patient on an acute medical ward for several days.

He was at the end of a long period of illness suffering from pulmonary fibrosis with a complication of pneumonia. 

I had spent lots of time tending to his every need and providing emotional support to his family. He had told me he “wanted to die” and that it was “time”. This was difficult to hear; I had to set aside my natural desire to simply keep him alive and accept this was what he seemed to want. 

After a few days he deteriorated dramatically, collapsing on the floor at one stage. As he was lifted onto the bed and the medical team assessed him I felt the tears come and the emotion peak. I had to leave the room to collect myself. I cried for a while - I had become so close to him and his family.

“I had to leave the room to collect myself”

He sadly passed away later that day. Watching him go through that transition was one of the hardest things I have experienced so far as a student nurse. 

As nurses we are doing a job, yes, but we are still human beings and of course we will be emotionally affected by our patients. Having and embracing this humanity in our roles is crucial in providing patient-centred care to a high standard. It also allows our genuine empathy and kindness to be conveyed to patients when it matters most.

Bria Glaister is a first-year student nurse

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