My patient died a few nights ago. It was the most bizarre experience ever. I had just been in his room, taking his blood pressure (which was fine), drawing his AM labs and talking to him. I walked him to the bathroom and back, then tucked him in his bed, got him a warm blanket and said goodnight.
I went into my next patient's room to hook up his antibiotics. The Monitor tech calls me and tells me my other patient has a junctional rhythm. I rush in there and he's pale and unresponsive, his head crooked over to the side, his dentures halfway out of his mouth. I instantly freaked and started shaking him, then hit the code button (even though he was DNR). I told the other nurses that he was DNR with chemical intervention but his heart had stopped beating and he wasn't even breathing. The doctor pronounced him at a few minutes after 3am.
How can someone be talking to you and then dead the next minute? He was old, in his 80s and had COPD...beyond that, he should have been fine. The family is not going to do an autopsy, so I'll never know what happened but always have questions.
This isn't the first time that my patient died, it's just the first time that it was so unexpected and random. I was the last person that he saw before he passed. I was the last person he spoke to. I'm still shell shocked. The nurses on the unit accepted it cynically, and almost without empathy. I'm dealing with hella emotions at this point, feeling that if I had stayed in the room for just a few more minutes I could have helped him live.
The next night I had a patient in the SAME ROOM. Unfortunately he didn't get much sleep that night because I kept going in to make sure he was still alive. I checked on him almost religiously, freakishly paranoid that this old 80 year old would die on me too.
How do nurses deal with all these emotions? I don't know what to do.