In this business of hospital medicine there is an understanding that some people who walk into the ER might not leave the hospital. As residents, we are always aware of the possibility but our super hero mentality never wants to think that we have no chance of saving anyone. A particular patient in question was pretty sick & it got to the point where the team was becoming comfortable with the idea that this patient might not survive the night. So they call the code blue to the patient’s bed and after about 30 minutes of attempts to bring the patient back the patient was pronounced dead.
With a veteran nursing staff who has seen this countless times & even myself having dealt with many similar situations over the past 2 years, it was more business as usual and we were going to go about our day because thats just the coping mechanism that many of us had. What made this situation different was seeing my medical student crying uncontrollably. I know the nursing staff and I was in more shock seeing the student’s tears then we were that the patient passed away. I didn’t even think to realize that this maybe my student’s first encounter with participating in a code & ultimately seeing the efforts fail.
I can remember a time where seeing death actually moved me to similar emotions but unfortunately it doesn’t anymore. I’m not sure if its a goal of medical training to desensitize us to death and the normal reactions that usually come from it but I can say that the way I deal with it now compared to when I first started class in med school has completely changed. Even as we were comforting the student phrases like “this happens a lot” & “that’s a normal reaction” came out, which in hindsight is a terrible way to think about it but it’s really the easiest way I know that is going to prepare them for a future in medicine where some live & some die.