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

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