During my last placement on an acute medical unit, which I will write about next week, I cared for a patient who was in the last few days of his life. Very sadly, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and passed away on my ward just eight weeks following the diagnosis. As nursing professionals, we comforted the family and ensured that the patient was treated with dignity and respect, but we are only human and sometimes patients and scenarios stick with you. I will never forget this patient and the emotions that I felt whilst caring for both the patient and the family. I remember seeing the daughter and trying to imagine how I would feel if that was one of my parents. I remember the patient’s partner and wondering how she would be able to grieve whilst continuing to support their children. As much as I can sympathise with my patients and their families, you never imagine situations like these happening to your own family.
However, three weeks later, a member of my own family was admitted onto my ward. I wasn’t allowed to assist with his care as we are related but I was aware of members of staff going in and out to see him. It was hard to put my thoughts and feelings aside and continue to care for my patients, but I did. It was hard to be the one holding his hand as we were told the worst news possible, but I did. I did and I feel privileged to have been able to do that for him and my family. I feel privileged to have been able to support my family during that time and help them to understand what the next few weeks would have in store for us. I feel privileged that I was working at the hospital so I could spend my breaks with him and check in with the staff looking after him regularly to see how he was doing.
Nothing can truly prepare you for telling a patient and their family that it isn’t good news but it is a different experience completely to be the one telling your own family. Unfortunately, he passed away only a matter of days later but I’d like to think that the knowledge and experiences I have gained through my training so far helped my family in even just a small way. I know that going through what we’ve all been through recently has brought my family even closer together and situations like these remind us of how lucky we are to have family and people around us who loves us to help us through the good times and the bad times. I hope that one positive thing I can take from this sad time for myself and my family is that I now have greater empathy and understanding for any future patients and their families in similar situations that I may come across in my career.