As soon as I got to the floor this morning, I found out I was getting a transfer from ICU. "Great..." I thought to myself...just how I wanted to start my shift...with a new patient.
This patient was elderly. She came to the hospital originally because she fell at home and had some fractures in her back. Along the course of her hospital stay, she developed pneumonia, which turned into sepsis, which quickly turned into respiratory failure, ventilator dependent.
When patients become hospice or full no codes, they come to my floor. She was my patient.
Her vitals were stable. She was mostly nonresponsive, and she just had that "look" that made me think the end was coming, but she seemed okay. I just kept a close, close eye on her.
Around lunch time, a family member came in. This family member was the one that was the most involved with her care and medical decision making. You could see the exhaustion in her face. When I informed them the hospice nurses would be in in about an hour to meet with them, she burst into tears. She said she lives several hours away, and she hasn't been home in weeks. She was tired, stressed, and most of all, she did not want her loved one dying alone, and it appeared that was going to be the case.
As we stood around the patient, quietly chatting, the woman, who had been NOTHING but super sweet to me, looked me dead in the eye and said "This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I am an RN, too, so I know how this goes. Now I have to leave to go back home, while she is hanging on, and let her die alone."
My response? "Ma'am, I've BEEN there. I've been on your side. My tragedy engraved it into my heart and SOUL that NO patient is EVER JUST a patient to me. They are someones mom, dad, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandmother, or grandfather. My job can EASILY turn into "just a job", but I assured her, promised her, looked her straight in the eyes and said, "I promise you. I get it. She will not die alone."
It was then that the pastor showed up, so I politely stepped out so they could pray over her. About 5 minutes later, the pastor peeked his head out the door, I was assuming to let me know he was done praying and I could go back in.
No, that's not it.
He poked his head out to let me know that as they prayed over her, she slowly, quietly, had her very last breath.