Previously on Nursing Habits: on my first day as a nurse a patient went into cardiac arrest…it was an ordeal I never imagined I’d witness on my first day and I was horrified at what I saw. I was then instructed to perform the last offices on the body…
No matter how many times you read about the procedure in your text-book, you can never be prepared for it. I had to take Mrs. Khosa into an empty room in the ICU department. It was my first actual day of practical training. It just so happens that I had to experience my first death on that day too! I was completely terrified. The charge sister, Sr. Sterile, asked me to do the last offices. She knew full well that I was a pupil nurse with zero nursing experience, but she thoughtlessly left me alone with the body. Perhaps she wanted me to know the reality of nursing firsthand. More likely she didn’t really care about how I felt. I agreed to do it because I felt I had no other choice. I felt chills run down my spine and I cried quietly, wishing I could go home. Some of Mrs. Khosa’s beaded jewellery still hung around her neck. I started taking it off as carefully as I could but the remaining beads fell and scattered all over the floor to my absolute horror. I don’t know why but I likened it to it being a piece of her and I didn’t want to see it destroyed too.
My heart racing, I quickly began to pick them up. I had to get every last bead. Sr. Sterile caught me gathering beads and sternly told me not to waste time. “Leave the beads alone and start laying out the body!” she ordered. I nodded my head and as soon as she walked out I quickly finished gathering the beads. I couldn’t help but feel tortured. No nurse should have to go through this by themselves on their first day in a real hospital scenario. I couldn’t help but cry while I cleaned the body. I removed all signs of her personality and covered the many puncture holes with cotton balls and tape, trying my hardest to close shut her stiff jaw. I didn’t have a clue how to get the body into a shroud and I had completely overlooked the important steps of identifying the body and taking thumb prints. Sr. Sterile would crucify me. Thankfully the angelic male nurse came once again to my rescue. He told me that I needn’t worry, I would soon get used to dead people. I couldn’t see that happening and being a grown woman, I felt like a vulnerable and scared child. This nurse comforted me, learnt my name and cracked a few jokes to lighten the mood. He filled in the steps I missed and helped me tug and push the body around to get it into the body bag. He then told me to leave the body bag open and let the body lay there for an hour before taking her down to the mortuary.
Why do we have to keep her here for an hour?
In case she wakes up..
Next on Nursing Habits: Arkadia has blood on her face, big disgrace!
You might also be interested in learning about the final death in my nursing career that broke the camels back and made me step out of the land of nursing.