Have you seen patient death in a clinical activity?


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Doofenschmirtz

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I'm training to be an EMT-B, and while shadowing at a local ED, I recently saw someone die from trauma related reasons. So, I'm just curious, how many of you all have seen these same situations, and how did it impact you? I've done clinical volunteering before, but this super short experiences in the ED really gave me a feel of what we're getting into as Med school applicants.

Out of curiosity again, what activity was it? I know EMTs and CNAs deal with this sort of stuff, but I also want to know where else these situations are seen.

Sorry if this is something that shouldn't be posted about, I'm new and don't know about forum rules.
 
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Goro

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It's very rare among occurrence in the essays I've read.
 

Boogy'sChick15

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I've seen 3 so far in my clinical volunteering. One during my rotation in the ER and 2 in the ICU.

The first one was a little shocking, but I was more focused on being there for the family member, and then respecting the patient that passed away when the nurses had me help prepare the body for the morgue.
After that, the other 2 were easier to handle. You get desensitized pretty quickly.

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tessellations

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When I worked as a CNA, I took care of a resident who was actively dying, although I wasn't there when she finally passed. There were a couple of times where I came in for a shift only to find that a resident had passed.
 
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minimebulldog23

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I just recently witnessed one while shadowing.It definitely was quite shocking as it was happening. I just tried to respect the space and let the doctor and fellows address the situation and made sure I wasn't in the way. I believe this puts medicine into perspective and how quickly a loss can happen even when the physician and staff are doing everything correctly. Just my .02 cents
 
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Gilakend

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I have a few times. First time was on my ER clinical for my EMT class while I was still a student. However, I work a 911 ambulance service so we get all life threatening calls. Cardiac arrest is one of our more common calls and while we do everything pre-hospital that we can sometimes it's not enough. It shows you that you need to know your stuff even if you're "just an EMT". You have to be able to tell yourself at the end of your shift that you did everything you could.

I personally met someone at the gym before who was shadowing and I asked him out it went and he saw someone die and switched out of premed the next day.
 
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Prometheus123

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I'm training to be an EMT-B, and while shadowing at a local ED, I recently saw someone die from trauma related reasons. So, I'm just curious, how many of you all have seen these same situations, and how did it impact you? I've done clinical volunteering before, but this super short experiences in the ED really gave me a feel of what we're getting into as Med school applicants.

Out of curiosity again, what activity was it? I know EMTs and CNAs deal with this sort of stuff, but I also want to know where else these situations are seen.

Sorry if this is something that shouldn't be posted about, I'm new and don't know about forum rules.
When I worked as a CNA, I took care of a resident who was actively dying, although I wasn't there when she finally passed. There were a couple of times where I came in for a shift only to find that a resident had passed.
I gave emotional comfort to a patient who was in the process of dying and helped the nurses with cleaning her. I didn't actually see her die though because once the family arrived to say goodbye, I left them alone unless they asked for something. She had already passed by my next shift. That's probably happened with lots of other patients too, but I don't usually find out about their deaths.
 

bioboy23

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It's very rare among occurrence in the essays I've read.
Is it a good thing to mention in essays or interviews if it had a lasting impact on you? I don't know how it couldn't have a lasting impact on someone...

OP: I've witnessed several as an operating room assistant for ~2 years. 1 woman after being shot by her boyfriend, 2 children after being stabbed by uncle, and a lot of organ retrievals, so I guess those don't really count as 'witnessing' the death. It is a weird feeling going into a room with 8 people and coming out with only 7, but after the first one it wasn't quite as shocking. Moving the body into and zipping the body bag is a very weird feeling each time. The best thing you can do is be respectful and keep your head down. The family down the hall is about to get some horrible news and seeing someone on staff being disrespectful at the wrong time would reflect very poorly--both the institution and on the individual.

Edit: Sorry, I forgot to mention the impact it had. Really, as you said, it put the path of medicine into perspective for me. The reason it is so selective and draining is because it is grooming to-be docs to deal with life/death situations on a regular basis without letting it significantly impact our personal and emotional lives. If a doctor lets the death of a patient get under his skin for a long period of time, he will not be on his A-game for the next patient who comes in.
 
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Goro

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Is it a good thing to mention in essays or interviews if it had a lasting impact on you? I don't know how it couldn't have a lasting impact on someone...

OP: I've witnessed several as an operating room assistant for ~2 years. 1 woman after being shot by her boyfriend, 2 children after being stabbed by uncle, and a lot of organ retrievals, so I guess those don't really count as 'witnessing' the death. It is a weird feeling going into a room with 8 people and coming out with only 7, but after the first one it wasn't quite as shocking. Moving the body into and zipping the body bag is a very weird feeling each time. The best thing you can do is be respectful and keep your head down. The family down the hall is about to get some horrible news and seeing someone on staff being disrespectful at the wrong time would reflect very poorly--both the institution and on the individual.
It's part of your path to Medicine.
 

ChymeofPassion

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I shadowed a week in palliative care so...
 
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Optimist Prime

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I volunteer at a hospice with the No One Dies Alone program (NODA). It really gives you an outside look on life and how the small things we worry aren't such a big deal. It's also taught me that most people just want someone there for them no matter what they're going through in life.
 

Pharaoh95

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Yea, in hospice care.
 
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STcmOCSD

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I've seen 2 in the ER I work in. Both were CPR cases that had to be stopped once family arrived and said patient was DNR. From this perspective, I've come to realize the important of the DNR order as well as the physician's responsibility to respect the wishes of their patient.


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Matthew9Thirtyfive

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As an OR tech, yes. I wrote about the first patient I had due in my PS for the USUHS EMDP2 program. Apparently they responded well to it.
 

P0ke

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Well I saw one case when I was a ER scribe where an old lady was wheeled in from an ambulance, stiff as a rock. The doctor put his stethoscope on her and was like "yep she's dead".

Another time I saw an old lady going into multiple organ failure and the doctor had me step out of the room. Pretty sure she died too. That's the one where the doctor got upset at me since I put her condition as "stable" in the chart, since I hadn't put anything but that until that point.
 

Tenk

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It's actually very rare to watch someone actively die outside of the ICU. Most people will be stabilized and admitted. I've only watched a few people actively pass in the ED and most of them were me withdrawing care due to family request. People who arrest in the field I don't actually consider alive since they technically aren't.

In situations like these it may help to put yourself in either the patient's or the family's shoes. Would you want your mom, dad, brother, sister to suffer needlessly? Would you want to? Should always offer empathy to family but never sugarcoat it. Be blunt and to the point. This prevents false hopes that can prolong unnecessary suffering.
 
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1st code - Woah wtf this is weird and will probably make sleeping hard for me for the next day or so
2nd code - Hm, this is pretty cool medically
3rd code - My chipotle is cold :(
nth code - Wait, this one made it? Woah.
 

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The worst part about medicine isn't patients dying. Usually it's an expected outcome for everyone except for the family member who flew in from 1000 miles away. It tends to be a fight to try to let people pass peacefully without excessive family inflicted suffering.

The really bad parts come when someone you thought would do okay has a bad outcome, especially if you played a role in it. That really weighs on you.
 

Ad2b

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I didn't watch him die but found my son dead. As I scrambled to remember infant CPR (though it was far too late) and started to hope when I heard "gurgling" sounds from his vocal cords, it never dawned on me he wouldn't be alive or couldn't be saved.

But... I watched my 6 month old son get zipped up into a body bag, watched the emergency crews take the bag away, got the phone call from the coroner's office regarding the autopsy, waited for my family to show up (I am and was a single mom); got the phone call that he was clear to be released to the funeral home, was told that it was SIDS and that I never had a chance to save him; by the time I found him, he'd been dead for hours.

Oh, and his organs were not able to be donated.

How did that impact me?

My 2nd son was born 5 years later. I'm a little over protective, scared when he's not up "on time" whatever that is, that I'm going to find him dead too. I worry more about him if he's off schedule (like hours, not minutes).

I am also not afraid to be with dying patients, their families or the providers that treat them. Knowing the really @#$ty things that were said to me, I know what not to say to them, though the intention was good, the delivery was abysmal. "You can have another child, don't worry." (yeah, that one's for real!)

If anything, my son's death made me a far better mother to the 2nd son, and quite possibly, will be a more excellent physician. My compassion chip honed, my empathy skills finessed. I don't think the 22 year old me had any clue the growth I would need to stand where I am now.
 
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Matthew9Thirtyfive

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I didn't watch him die but found my son dead. As I scrambled to remember infant CPR (though it was far too late) and started to hope when I heard "gurgling" sounds from his vocal cords, it never dawned on me he wouldn't be alive or couldn't be saved.

But... I watched my 6 month old son get zipped up into a body bag, watched the emergency crews take the bag away, got the phone call from the coroner's office regarding the autopsy, waited for my family to show up (I am and was a single mom); got the phone call that he was clear to be released to the funeral home, was told that it was SIDS and that I never had a chance to save him; by the time I found him, he'd been dead for hours.

Oh, and his organs were not able to be donated.

How did that impact me?

My 2nd son was born 5 years later. I'm a little over protective, scared when he's not up "on time" whatever that is, that I'm going to find him dead too. I worry more about him if he's off schedule (like hours, not minutes).

I am also not afraid to be with dying patients, their families or the providers that treat them. Knowing the really @#$ty things that were said to me, I know not to say them to someone else, though the intention was good, the delivery was abysmal. "You can have another child, don't worry." (yeah, that one's for real!)

If anything, my son's death made me a far better mother to the 2nd son, and quite possibly, will be a more excellent physician. My compassion chip honed, my empathy skills finessed. I don't think the 22 year old me had any clue the growth I would need to stand where I am now.
So sorry you had to go through that.
 
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I didn't watch him die but found my son dead. As I scrambled to remember infant CPR (though it was far too late) and started to hope when I heard "gurgling" sounds from his vocal cords, it never dawned on me he wouldn't be alive or couldn't be saved.

But... I watched my 6 month old son get zipped up into a body bag, watched the emergency crews take the bag away, got the phone call from the coroner's office regarding the autopsy, waited for my family to show up (I am and was a single mom); got the phone call that he was clear to be released to the funeral home, was told that it was SIDS and that I never had a chance to save him; by the time I found him, he'd been dead for hours.

Oh, and his organs were not able to be donated.

How did that impact me?

My 2nd son was born 5 years later. I'm a little over protective, scared when he's not up "on time" whatever that is, that I'm going to find him dead too. I worry more about him if he's off schedule (like hours, not minutes).

I am also not afraid to be with dying patients, their families or the providers that treat them. Knowing the really @#$ty things that were said to me, I know what not to say to them, though the intention was good, the delivery was abysmal. "You can have another child, don't worry." (yeah, that one's for real!)

If anything, my son's death made me a far better mother to the 2nd son, and quite possibly, will be a more excellent physician. My compassion chip honed, my empathy skills finessed. I don't think the 22 year old me had any clue the growth I would need to stand where I am now.
Touching story! I'm sure you will make a fantastic physician :)
 
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Kingsmen2018

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As a Health Scholar Who rotated in the ICU and the ER I have seen a handful. And performed Chest compressions on many
 

kopftonmd

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Haven't seen a patient die, but I volunteer at a big inner-city hospital, so every so often, someone will be brought into the ER and their family to the waiting area and they'll die. So while I can't comment on actually seeing someone die, it's always very striking and clear when the family finds out. Yelling, screaming, crying, cursing, praying; people running away, security guards running over, sometimes police too (if it was gang-related, I assume). Always a bit shocking.
 
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wholeheartedly

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Haven't seen a patient die, but I volunteer at a big inner-city hospital, so every so often, someone will be brought into the ER and their family to the waiting area and they'll die. So while I can't comment on actually seeing someone die, it's always very striking and clear when the family finds out. Yelling, screaming, crying, cursing, praying; people running away, security guards running over, sometimes police too (if it was gang-related, I assume). Always a bit shocking.

Honestly, I think this is one of the hardest things for me so far.

Was working one night and stepped out of the bloodbank for a quick break and saw a family standing outside the OR hallway. I'd run a cooler of blood down to the ED on a trauma patient. He looked awful then and had gone to the OR and seemed to be going through blood faster than they could infuse it. I knew it was his family, knew he wasn't going to make it. I felt so bad because you could tell they were scared, but still hopeful. When I came back by a few minutes later, the surgeon was talking to them. I'll never forget the looks on their faces as that hope was just shattered.

It's watching the families that just kills me.
 
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Would an emotional person be bad in emergency medicine? All this talk of death I completely didn't even consider for some reason. I can't imagine telling someone their kid didn't make it
 

wholeheartedly

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Would an emotional person be bad in emergency medicine? All this talk of death I completely didn't even consider for some reason. I can't imagine telling someone their kid didn't make it


it's one of these really weird things you don't have any idea how you'll respond to until you're actually in that situation. I'm the kind who bawls at movies and was really worried I'd be someone who would fall apart to easy when things didn't go well. Turns out I've actually done ok, and been able to stay collected in those situations. I've had totally opposite responses to some situations than what I would've expected.
 

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I worked in a nursing home and sometimes I would be chatting and joking with one of the residents on Monday, and then they would fall ill and die in 2 days. It was so hard for me. I always read the little "life story" paragraphs they post on the bulletin boards whenever one of our resident dies. Once, I met one of our residents, and he became unconscious the night I met him, and then passed away 2 days later. I didn't really know him since I just met him, but I stayed late after work and sat and cried with his family by his bed, and they told me about his life. He was an immigrant from Italy who came to Canada in his 20s. He was so poor that he stayed in a garage without heat. He got into a car accident and had to lay in his bed during the cold Canadian winter without heat and the frozen blood from his head glued his head to the wall at the end of the bed. The landlord felt bad for him so she asked her niece to come take care of him. Then he fell in love with the niece and they got married. They were married for over 60 years when he died, and his wife/widow was completely lost without him. I don't know why I felt so sad when I don' even really know him, but I do feel that each life is valuable, and every one deserves to have their stories heard. Especially when they are dying, because soon they may be forgotten, but all the beautiful things that happened in his life (or the wonderful things he's done) shouldn't be forgotten like that. I never write stuff like this, but since this topic came up....I just think that when someone dies, we should all take some time to remember the amazing life that just ended, even if we didn't know the person well, because those amazing life moments are valuable in and of itself.
 
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Princeton Medical Student

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I have a few times. First time was on my ER clinical for my EMT class while I was still a student. However, I work a 911 ambulance service so we get all life threatening calls. Cardiac arrest is one of our more common calls and while we do everything pre-hospital that we can sometimes it's not enough. It shows you that you need to know your stuff even if you're "just an EMT". You have to be able to tell yourself at the end of your shift that you did everything you could.

I personally met someone at the gym before who was shadowing and I asked him out it went and he saw someone die and switched out of premed the next day.
I believe maybe three words of that paragraph ._.
 
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Gilakend

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I believe maybe three words of that paragraph ._.
Dawg, I have no reason to lie on an anonymous internet forum. I'm MCAT studying now so I don't work too much, but I worked about 2 weeks full time earlier in the summer and we had 2 cardiac arrests in a period of 4 shifts, which I admit is probably not the norm. Considering we cover a very large rural county at some of our stations if you get a certain type of call once a week it's common! Some stations will only do 2-4 calls in a 24. 1/2 of those psychs but I was told by by FTO he get 1 or 2 a week, which for us is pretty common.
 
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Would an emotional person be bad in emergency medicine? All this talk of death I completely didn't even consider for some reason. I can't imagine telling someone their kid didn't make it
You have to be able to distance yourself. If you let every single poor outcome affect you strongly, you'll become a terrible physician (lose your ability to make critical decisions) and will burn out super early.
 

Mad Jack

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I saw hundreds of dead people at University Medical Center over the years I spent there as a respiratory therapist. I'd have to discontinue life support on patients damn near daily, as we had over 150 ICU beds split between neuro, peds, medical, newborn, surgery, and cards- hell, maybe even over two hundred ICU beds in total now that I think about it- so someone was always being to be pulled from life support. Someone was always dying. I frequently carried the code pager, so I was there for every code that happened on the campus during those shifts, usually one or two, sometimes none. You get used to it. Dead people don't freak me out in the slightest anymore, though I was a little grossed out in anatomy lab because preserved dead bodies are totally different than normal dead bodies, but I got over that. You won't take deaths as hard as you think umpires they happen under your care and you worry you made a mistake. Those will haunt you a bit, we've all got a few where we wonder if we could have done something better.
 

calivianya

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The worst part about medicine isn't patients dying. Usually it's an expected outcome for everyone except for the family member who flew in from 1000 miles away. It tends to be a fight to try to let people pass peacefully without excessive family inflicted suffering.

The really bad parts come when someone you thought would do okay has a bad outcome, especially if you played a role in it. That really weighs on you.
Bolded the part of yours I liked best for emphasis - this is one of the reasons I want to become a physician. I see a lot of docs roll over and play dead when the demanding family members show up, and cater to everything the families want. I know we can't make the decisions 100% for the patients, but I believe we could fight those awful, torturing families a little harder than we do. I do what I can, but some of them say to me that they'd rather have that withdrawal of care conversation with the physician than a nurse. Sucks when the intensivist we have on right then is famous for "give them until Monday" because they change rotations on Monday, so if the conversation happens then, it will be a different physician's problem instead of his... but yeah, let's just let the brain dead post code ride the vent for a week, rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in ICU bills, and take up a bed in our (usually) totally packed unit that a viable person who could survive might need just because a physician doesn't want to have a difficult conversation and the family wants the patient to live. Sounds like a great plan to me.

I'm writing about the latter for a describe a time you failed essay. It sucks to miss the early signs of a status change, especially if you know the patient might have done okay if you caught it in time.

I'd peg the number of deaths I've seen at >100. Can't be much more precise than that... haven't really kept a tally. I work MICU, so most of my patients have suffered a very long time. It's almost always a victory for the patients when the patients are finally allowed to pass.
 
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On_The_Way_Up

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At a hospital I volunteer in the emergency department. I've seen it happen 4 times during my shift. 2 times I was speaking to some of the family members and I walked them back to the "family room" where many friends and family of the deceased go to talk and be with each other.
 
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Bolded the part of yours I liked best for emphasis - this is one of the reasons I want to become a physician. I see a lot of docs roll over and play dead when the demanding family members show up, and cater to everything the families want. I know we can't make the decisions 100% for the patients, but I believe we could fight those awful, torturing families a little harder than we do. I do what I can, but some of them say to me that they'd rather have that withdrawal of care conversation with the physician than a nurse. Sucks when the intensivist we have on right then is famous for "give them until Monday" because they change rotations on Monday, so if the conversation happens then, it will be a different physician's problem instead of his... but yeah, let's just let the brain dead post code ride the vent for a week, rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in ICU bills, and take up a bed in our (usually) totally packed unit that a viable person who could survive might need just because a physician doesn't want to have a difficult conversation and the family wants the patient to live. Sounds like a great plan to me.

I'm writing about the latter for a describe a time you failed essay. It sucks to miss the early signs of a status change, especially if you know the patient might have done okay if you caught it in time.

I'd peg the number of deaths I've seen at >100. Can't be much more precise than that... haven't really kept a tally. I work MICU, so most of my patients have suffered a very long time. It's almost always a victory for the patients when the patients are finally allowed to pass.
Read Extreme Measures by Jessica Nutik
It's an amazing book about an ICU turned palliative care doc and resonates with the experiences of a provider in the modern ICU.
 
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calivianya

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Read Extreme Measures by Jessica Nutik
It's an amazing book about an ICU turned palliative care doc and resonates with the experiences of a provider in the modern ICU.
You aren't the first person to recommend this to me. I really need to get on it and read it already.
 
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