The Right Time to Lose a Patient
Although there is really never a right time to die or even witness death, it is important to acknowledge that death is a reality, and that all health care practitioners will be subjected to death at some point. For that reason, I raise the question; is there an appropriate time to lose a patient? From my perspective the answer is yes, and for good reason.
Having recently finished twelve weeks of Internal Medicine, the first of my core third year rotations, I vividly remember the excitement I felt when walking into the hospital. I knew all the work I accomplished in the classroom was about to be put to good use. I had the opportunity to help interns, ...view middle of the document...
Over the course of the following days, she took a turn for the worse. Morning rounds started to focus on end-of-life care, and a DNR order was put in place. I began to
realize how shameful my earlier mindset had been as I stood on the sidelines in disbelief. A patient with whom I had laughed with just three days previously was now facing impending death, and I was faced with the challenge processing this reality.
Losing a loved one is painful and significant, but witnessing a patient’s death is different. I had seen death before, having lost family members, but had never experienced the sense of responsibility that comes with being a part of the care team. We are trained to understand death as an inevitable outcome for many diseases, but we often fail to learn and understand how this process impacts our patients, and how family members will feel during this time. In talking with colleagues, the overwhelming consensus was that witnessing the death of a patient is an experience never forgotten. Many agreed that it shaped them into the physicians they are today, and impacted how they treated future patients.
In reflecting back, I believe that it is important to leave time to assess a patient’s understanding of their...