End of Life Care: Nursing Student Role



Today we had a patient who died...being do not resuscitate-intubate, it wasn't as if death came suddenly. His wife was crying, his kids were crying, social workers were trying to contact family members...just a whole lot of things at once. I didn't process the death at first; we had patients to take care of...but then our instructor had us in a room...to help prep the body. Just then I found myself staring at a body who is still, completely still, incapable of doing anything, who a few hours ago, was alive. His heart was firing, blood was flowing, and now it's still...I've been to wakes and funerals, too many, but I'd never seen how death is handled in a hospital. It felt cold. It was as if the tech did so many (preps); it became mechanical. I understand the body is heavy but I just thought it could have been done a little more gently...we helped bind his hands, feet and jaw together, he was tagged and then put into a bag. That was weird, I helped put a human into a bag, put him on a cart, rode him into the morgue, into a big refrigerator...and being with a dead body, well, it isn't as scary as I once thought it's be. It's just really quiet. And that's the sad part. The quiet.

Have you experienced something similar to this nursing student's account of death of a patient? Have you given much thought about how you would handle caring for a teminally ill patient or the death of a patient?  As a student nurse, or as a new graduate nurse, you will most likely encounter a patient death experience. The American Culture has a tendency to deny death, believing that medical science can cure any patient. Death is a natural aspect of life but is often seen as a failure of the health care system.This belief affects nurses and all health care professionals. Nurses are educated in the technical and interpersonal skills needed for the nursing role but research indicates nurses are not competent nor confident in the specialized skills needed to provide quality  End of Life Care to patients. Nurses must acquire the knowledge and skills required to provide this special care and to make a positive impact on the lives  of both the patient and their family. 

The purpose of this Webquest is to assist nursing students and new graduate nurses with the skills and knowledge to provide competent end of life care. "Peaceful Death," was developed for undergraduate nursing students by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to guide a vision and provide recommended competencies and curricular guidelines for End of Life Care.

At the completion of this course, a group project will to produce a powerpoint with audio recording of each group member to reflect the competencies established by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the skills and knowledge gained through resources provided through the webquest course links. 

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