Privacy, judgment and ethics aside, I have caring to do.

A few years ago I cared for an acquaintance. She was a friend of a friend who had been living out of the country for several years, but had come home to visit family friends. She was rushed in to the ED and before I even knew who she was I was delivering her 19 week old fetus. When I finally looked up to see the mother’s face I realized we knew each other. I said nothing. In that moment I didn’t care about what the College would say about caring for those you know when there was a real emergency to deal with. I held her hand as she passed the placenta and focused on stabilizing her blood pressure by putting in the largest IVs as I could.  I asked her if she remembered me and if she would prefer another nurse cared for her. She asked me to stay. I comforted her and showed her the baby she would never get to know. I checked on her every half hour that shift and came in early for my next shift to find out how she was. There was no time to feel sad until my shift was over and like the other children and babies and fetuses I have seen pass away, they stick around in my heart and mind a lot longer. There are those patients that stick with you, elderly or middle aged, etc, but I think most any emergency nurse can agree that child patients are the some of the longest lasting in our memories. And for me, the ones who haven’t even started in this world are forever imprinted.

I saw my acquaintance a few months later, she was home again, in the grocery store and she thanked me for what I had done for her and told me she would never forget me. The thank you warmed my heart but I knew she would no longer remember me as the girl she had a beer with when we were in our early 20s, but as the nurse who was there when she lost her baby.  Judgment, confidentiality, privacy, all of those ethical principles aside, perhaps that’s why we shouldn’t care for ones we know, even if just a little, because it affects us too.

I recently found out that she gave birth to a daughter and it’s amazing how happy I felt for someone I don’t really know to have had a baby.  I wanted to find a way to contact her to wish her well but elected not to as I didn’t want to be THAT nurse wishing her well, inadvertently reminding her of what she lost before.  Nevertheless, I personally take solace in knowing that despite all of the sad and terrible we see rarely hearing from these patients again, they do in fact have happiness and joy in their lives later on.

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  1. #1 by Jennifer Jilks (@jennjilks) on Thursday 05 July 2012 - 0920

    Jean, this is a joyful story. As a hospice volunteer, I know the importance of good grief, of dealing with the heart ache, but dealing with it in your own way.
    My mother lost two babies, and I was subsequently adopted by her. She healed. Grief, bereavement, mourning, are all important. You need to heal, too.
    I think the only thing you can do is your job, which is more than work. It is a calling.
    Remember to refer patients to bereavement groups. They help. We know so much more about good grief.
    I worked with children in an Expressive Arts Bereavement group. All had lost a parent between the tender ages of 8 and 12. There is healing that can occur, but you only hear about the ones in trouble.
    Excellent post.

    • #2 by jeanhill on Thursday 05 July 2012 - 1239

      I think we as ER nurses don’t always know the appropriate bereavement groups for ourselves or who to refer the patient to. Sometimes there are so many things going on at the same time in the ED that these special patients get lost in the shuffle. And yet that’s no excuse. It’s terrible to think that it happens so frequently. Perhaps for each miscarriage patient/family we should be offering bereavement referrals. Even to access months down the road.
      Thank you for the work you do!

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