The Next Shift is a new series of stories written by experienced RNs to provide advice that can help guide the next generation of nurses. The series is presented by The Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing’s Future.
In more than 35 years as a nurse, the biggest lesson I learned is there are worse things in this world than dying. I learned this when I was working in the ED and a man with a history of cardiac problems arrived with severe chest pain. He made his wife and son promise no extraordinary measures would be taken to revive him if he went into cardiac arrest. We watched as his heart went into witnessed ventricular fibrillation and were sure we could bring him back. His wife would not allow it. After he passed away, something came to me like a lightning bolt. It would have been more agonizing for this man to live in torment with his symptoms and not knowing when his last minute was going to be, then it was to just let him enter heaven.
Accepting death as a part of life made me a stronger, more loving and caring nurse and human being. Its our job to help families understand their choices are OK and that they cant blame themselves for allowing a natural part of life to happen.