Offering comfort to patients

A few years ago, I was in 2nd year of nursing school and attending my first clinical placement on a medical ward.  At the end of the day, our clinical instructor led a teaching session about an interesting patient that one of the student’s had cared for that day.  Our instructor gave us a good picture of the patient’s medical condition and situation.  The patient was a 60-something-year-old lady dying from a cancer which caused considerable pain, and she was therefore receiving dilaudid SC every 4 hours.  Our instructor explained how there was a range of dilaudid that could be given, and that it could only be given every 4 hours.  She explained how dilaudid could cause respiratory depression if given in large doses.  Then she proceeded to say “This lady is dying and in pain; now don’t you think it would be better if the physician did not limit the dilaudid to every 4 hours, so that you could give it as often as you liked?”

I was shocked by this statement, and blurted out “No!”  Another of my classmates nodded, but the rest did not seem to have as much of a concern about this.  I remember wanting to say more – to say that it is not our right to hasten someone’s death, even if they are dying and in pain.

Now, working as an RN with palliative cancer patients, I see the great suffering that they endure.  I have become close with patients who are dying and who are scared of what is to come.  I have been with patients in pain or struggling to breathe in their last days, and have had patients express their wish to go.  Yet my reaction to these patients has not been the desire to help them to commit the act of ending their own lives.  I realize that it is not for any of us to decide when someone’s life should end.  My desire has been to comfort these patients, to help them realize how much they are valued- by their families, but also by the healthcare team who is caring for them.  My desire is to encourage them that their suffering has value and that it is helping others to learn to love freely.  I would never want the option of euthanasia or assisted suicide for my patients.

Theresa, RN from Hamilton,Ontario

Posted in: Blogroll on April 28th by shannon

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