Nursing - Preparing Patient After Death

The Patient Has Passed But The Nurse Is Not Done
April 19, 2023 – 07:26 am

By, BSN, RNPatients die. During my first clinical of my first semester of nursing school one of my patients died while I was trying to hear her "interesting" heartbeat. One of my classmates had just listened to it and had called me over. I thought something was wrong with my stethoscope. I moved it—and moved it again, and again, then said to my friend, "I don't hear it." She put her stethoscope back in her ears, moved it a couple of places, looked at me and said, "I think she's dead." WOW!

This, I was not particularly prepared for. However, I had been around dead bodies in less appealing circumstances in my journalism career and my classmate had once worked in a nursing home. We knew the patient was a "DNR, " do not resuscitate. We handled it. The patient had been eating lunch when she died. My classmate took the food out of her mouth, tucked in her arms and pulled the sheet up to her chest neatly and combed her hair. She looked good. I called our clinical instructor.

Getting to the point here, some of our classmates did not handle this well, even though she wasn't their patient. Again, patients die. If you are a nursing student you best be prepared for this. It isn't easy, it can be sad but it is part of the job, part of the responsibility of being a nurse.

So, how do you care for a dead patient?

Post-mortem care is pretty much the same whether on the floor or in specialty departments like mine, the operating room. Our biggest difference is the family is, obviously, never there when the patient passes. Post-mortem care serves several purposes, including:

  • Preparing the patient for viewing by the family.
  • Ensuring proper identification of the patient prior to transport to the morgue or funeral home.
  • Providing appropriate disposition of the patient's belongings.

Seems straightforward, right? But, this is a person we are dealing with, breathing or not. Treat them with respect. I know for me, I continue to talk to my patient while providing post-mortem care. It makes me more comfortable, and it makes sure I don't start thinking of them as a diagnosis or just a body.

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Interesting facts

Input and output (I & O) is the measure of food and fluids that enter and exit the body. Certain patients with the need are placed on I & O, and if so, their urinary output is measured.
With self-toileting patients on I & O, or those who are assisted to a regular toilet or portable commode, a receptacle is placed in the toilet bowl that catches...

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