MAGNET MONDAY: Ruth Burall, RN, partners with patient and family for “beautiful and peaceful” end of life

MAGNET MONDAY: Ruth Burall, RN, partners with patient and family for “beautiful and peaceful” end of life

Nurses have always been at the bedside of dying patients. Our role in providing the highest quality of remaining life and support at the end of life for both patients and their families is traditional, accepted, and expected. At AAMC, we are empowered to respond to our patients needs – that’s Magnet. As her patient neared the end of her life, read how Ruth Burall, RN, did just that… Ruth Burall

Every so often there is a patient or an event that reminds each of us why we became nurses. For me, it’s usually in the middle of a code or when caring for a vented patient on multiple titrating medications or a balloon pump. However, this time it was different.

My patient, Mrs. G, knew she was dying. With a bad mitral valve, fluid was backing up into her lungs and making it hard for her to breath. But Mrs. G wasn’t ready to die. Although one son was local and able to be at her bedside, her second son was on his way from the other side of the world — and she wanted to see him one last time.

My goal was to make Mrs. G as comfortable as possible and do everything in my power to ensure that she could say goodbye to her second son. Dr. Zaiman and I started medications and therapies that would give us more time.

As I cared for Mrs. G — fanning her, turning her and holding her hand — the son who was traveling was sending videos of his children. As she watched, her face would light up with the biggest smile.  And when I brought her a fan, Mrs. G told me she loved me. 

However, each time Mrs. G’s family left the room, she confided that she didn’t think she was going to make it until her son arrived. So we started a countdown. Every time I went to her bedside, I whispered in her ear how many hours she needed to hang on for. Eventually her family realized what was happening and joined the count with me — we were counting down to midnight. 

My shift ended at 8 p.m. and she still had four more hours to go. Before I left, I asked the night shift nurse to send me an update — at 3:45 a.m. my phone went off.  Mrs. G had made it. She actually had two extra hours to spend with her boys.

With some creative doctoring and nursing and family support, I had the pleasure of partnering with Mrs. G in a beautiful and peaceful death.  -Ruth Burall, RN


  1. Posted by carol Namo, at Reply

    Ruth, thank your for sharing your wonderful story of victory. I am a nurse on the Oncology Unit and we face this sort of process almost weekly and sometimes daily. You did a fantastic job and made sure your patient made her goal. I love it when their passing is peaceful and fulfilled. What a difference this will make for the family as they grieve. Wonderful, fantastic, sensitive, caring nursing. Thank you for being our example.

  2. Posted by Julie Blackburn, at Reply

    What an incredible story! It is so inspirational to see and hear such a true respect of a patient as an individual. The compassion and care you gave this patient will forever be felt by her family.

  3. Posted by Dawn Hudson, at Reply

    What a beautiful story Ruth, I know you made a difference in that patient’s last hours and her families. A nice reminder that some of the best care is not necessarily fancy machines and technology but kindness, a touch, listening and just being “there” for those in their last hours of need.

  4. Posted by Clint Welch, at Reply

    Fantastic nursing story, fantastic nurse!

  5. Posted by Linda Weiss, at Reply

    Hi Ruth,

    Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing this with us, this story stirs memories. The world would be a better place, if everyone had such an experience as the “nurse”.

  6. Posted by Linda Frazier, at Reply

    Oh, Ruth, your story made me cry. This is what nursing should be like. You focused on the needs of the patient – no one else. It’s so hard to do in an acute care setting. You earned your wings that day!

  7. Posted by Michelle Donovan, at Reply

    Conforming to a patient’s individual needs is a special talent of nurses, especially as their patient is dying. Ruth – what a beautiful story and opportunity you shared with this patient (for both of you). You have a distinctive affinity for knowing and responding to your patients spoken and unspoken needs. Kudos to you and others like you who go that extra mile.

  8. Posted by peyton, at Reply

    this is beautiful treatment for a nurse to go above the call of duty as a nurse to make a person’s final hours and or days for the families who face this situation

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