Death and dying - nightmares


Hello, I am a PCT and nursing student. I have been in school for 2 years and working as a tech for just as long. Something apparently I feel that is not talked about enough is the effect death has on someone.

At first I thought I was heartless, completely unaffected by death as I held my hospice patients hand as she reached her final breathes. I had only been working hospice for 3 shifts. They tell you people die but what they dont tell you is how hard death is. First the patient gets extremely confused and starts hallucinating, seeing Angel’s or hearing their baby cry, but they cant get to them. You leave them and 1 to 2 hours go by, you go in to find your patient sliding off the bed gasping for air. You see that it’s their time to go and naturally you sit with them and wait.

10 to 15 minutes go by and the patients respirations are down to 7 or 8 per minute, they urinate everywhere. Mind you this patient was 48 years old, dying of metastatic breast cancer. She fights the rest of the night and after 2 to 3 hours of gasping for air, she poops in the bed. She is in pain, it looks very painful. She finally succumbs 5 minutes to shift change, alone. I had to care for other patients, so I left the room. Some deaths go fast, those are a little “easier”.

In the last few months I have seen many deaths, seemingly unaffected. But now it hits me, after all this time comes the nightmares.

It started on a trip to the city with my boyfriend and his best friend. We get to this strange Colosseum type place and were walking through a narrow hallway when Lane (boyfriends bff) says “its happening, I’m dying.” And he does and were so sad and I witness it the same way but in this Colosseum. Then the same thing happens with my boyfriend. And I have to watch him die and gasp for air, and piss himself. Then I wake up.

Just sharing my story. I’d love some input on the matter. Why am I just being affected?


It’s hard to say why your response was delayed. Everyone processes this differently and at different rates. This doesn’t mean you’re weak or not cut out for healthcare. It does mean you should find someone you trust - really trust - and confide in them. We all have codes and deaths that follow us. PTSD in the healthcare field is a very real thing. If it’s affecting you on a profound level, like enough to keep you up at night, please know there’s no shame in seeking professional help. Hopefully your employer has a chaplain. They’re amazing to talk with, even if you’re not religious. They handle death and grief and council us through it regularly. You should also identify at least one friend, a work friend or someone at home, that will listen to you whenever you need to talk. I find that if I can talk about the dark parts of my job it’s a little easier to get through them. Hang in there and know that you’re strong!

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