Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dr. Orthochick: Where we go when we're gone

I walked into a patient's room this morning for rounds and discovered she was dead.

Well, that's never happened to me before.

(All joking aside, it kind of freaked me out. I walked in and she was a little too quiet and she looked a little too gray and I got close enough to see she wasn't breathing before I backed out of the room. It turned out the nurses knew and they were waiting for her corpse to get moved out of the room but I guess I missed the memo or something.)

That being said, I was glad I at least noticed. One of my old chiefs once told me that he had rounded on a dead guy without realizing it and wrote a note, which doesn't look good in the chart. I mean, yes, the dead usually do not report pain and their vital signs are stable so a note on a dead guy probably looks a lot like an ortho note on a living guy, but it's poor form to not realize the patient's not breathing.


  1. Yesterday was my first time being in the room with a patient and family when the patient died. It was a first for me, as a chaplain (or as anything, but just to give some background). It was harder to tell than I thought it would be- after all, he was on a respirator, so he kept on "breathing".

  2. Ages ago (think eons) I was a candy striper in a Nebraska hospital.

    One of the nurses asked me to get a gurney ready for a transfer for the pt. in room whatever. I did and as the nurse was busy, I brought the gurney into the pt's. room intending to reassure him/her we were on the way and talk.

    Pt. was not going to talk. Ever. And pt. was VERY obviously dead and did not go quietly.

    I backed into the nurse as I tried to leave quickly. She and the other nurses on floor were very good about it and talked to me (between caring for other pts.) about how death was part of what happened at hospitals and should not be feared. Disliked, fought against, but not feared.

  3. Back when I was a student rounding with the team on the heart surgery ward, one morning we were going through our patients and I was like, hey, what about Mrs. So-and-so? The docs and my preceptor checked their sheets and she wasn't on it, and the doc was like "I wonder why she's not on there... she needs to be seen!" Upon investigation he found she had died the previous night. It seems odd nothing was mentioned in the morning.