This post isn’t going to be the happiest, upbeat post so only read if your up to it.
I remember sitting in my room excitingly logging on to the internet to find out where my first ever placement was. I cannot explain how excited I was. Once I found out, that excitement was replaced with anxiety and fear. As a 19 year old girl, I had known very little death and was scared of it. I had never seen a dead body and I really didn’t think I would be able to cope with it. I had become a nurse to help save lives, i understood that end of life care was important but just never saw myself doing it.
One of the worst parts of working there was coming in after a weekend off and someone telling you that a resident had past away, then seeing their family members who often I knew very well after weeks of visits, coming in to pay their last respects and to collect belongings. You struggle to know what to say or to do, especially at the start.
One experience that stands out the most in my mind is a gentleman who’s condition had been slowly deteriorating. His family adored him and visited him everyday and he had made a real impact on all of the staff. I remember going home at the end of my shift and popping my head around the door to say good night to his wife, she was a lovely lady and was totally dedicated to her husband, who had decided to stay over night to be with him. The next day when I got to work, I went straight from hanging up my coat and went to see the gentleman. This was unusual as I usually went and sat with the staff before starting. I walked into his room and said good morning to his wife and asked how she was, she was clearly very upset and exhausted so i gave her a hug. I turned around to see how the gentleman was and found that he had passed away and was lying their peacefully. It was a real shock to my system, as i had not spoken to any of the staff yet. I managed to compose myself and continue to give support to his wife but it really shook me to my core.
The first time I washed a patient was awful, I had no idea what I was doing and had been told by a member of staff that I would be alright and then they walked of. The resident had dementia and a whole list of other conditions which led her to be in the end of life home. I undressed her, helped her on to the washing chair and covered her with a towel to keep her warm. I quickly found out that washing someone else, especially with dementia is hard work. She was very confused and at one point threw her arm out which knocked the shower hose out of my hands and totally soaked me. She then tried to get up out of her chair and really did not want to get dressed afterwards. This experience showed me that I was totally unprepared for washing a patient on my own and that I needed help. When I finally emerged with a soaking uniform, i think the other members of staff realized that too.
The placement on a whole was a great learning experience and I felt privileged to be able to make the end of life experiences for the residents as peaceful and comfortable as possible. Everyday there was something to be sad about but also something to laugh about. The staff there were amazing and really cared about who they were looking after.