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I currently work in a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Wisconsin, and rarely see death or dying on my unit. There have been a few fetal demises on the Labor and Delivery unit, but we do not deal with any of those cases. However, in Colorado I worked at several jobs where I dealt with death daily. I started out my career in nursing homes where I cared for many elderly people that were dying from a multitude of conditions like cancer, and heart disease just to name a few. I also worked in two inpatient Hospice units that I really enjoyed. It was hard to see these individuals and families go through the pain they dealt with for so long. Many did not have family nearby, so they were alone left with the caregivers or nurses to provide them with strength and hope. I cared for these people for many years and felt that it was where I was needed at that time. Some nurses expressed that they hated death and did not last long at that job. I believe that it takes someone special to deal with death, someone that is open-minded and has a warm heart to accept that life can end as many of the patients are scared and need that support. I feel it is important that the best compassionate care is given as the mood is kept lighthearted so that they can reminiscence about the good and bad times. I think this helps the family to understand the process without being overwhelmed and to help them accept what is happening. Many had religious views or requests when they died, and I did all I could do to respect their wishes. Examples were to have a Chaplain at the bedside when they died, or have a prayer read by staff when they passed on. I felt comfortable being at the bedside and felt at peace knowing that these individuals would no longer suffer from the pain of their disease. The staff members would go through the grieving process just as the family would so counseling was offered. Watching these people die made me respect the fact of life is short and nothing should be taken for granted. Today I feel that I can handle the death of an adult better than an infant or child. I know I would feel comfortable to cry with the family as emotion is normal during the process. Death is a fact of life in my opinion, when it is your time to go, it is your time. Fighting death can only make the experience harder for the individual. Because of the experiences I have had as a nurse, I feel that I accept death better than my coworkers. With the loses I have had in my life, I also go through some of the grieving process intermittently, only it does get easier year after year. I live my life every day to the fullest giving myself time to be happy, sad, mad, but grateful for what I have.

Shelly, J., & Miller, A. (2006) Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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