When Enough is Enough: End of Life Decisions

Although this is a travel blog, it’s because of my nursing career that I have the privilege to travel.  Every so often something happens in  my career and I just have to share it (I’m sure we all remember The View debacle).

But this is exciting news! I wrote a short story, a piece of fiction from the perspective of a dying patient in the Intensive Care Unit, and the American Journal of Nursing published it on their website! You can read it here.

One of the hardest parts about being a nurse is when you can’t advocate for what is best for your patient. Often times, family members are not ready to let go, even though we can tell the patient might be suffering or there is no quality of life left. Shift after shift, we keep people alive, performing tasks like blood draws, catheter insertions, breathing trials, and positioning and the patient has no way to say stop, no way to tell us that they are uncomfortable. We poke, we prod, we expose, because the family isn’t ready to say goodbye. It hurts my heart and saddens my soul when I’m forced to prolong a life, instead of celebrating the end of a great life.

I’ve been in healthcare my entire adult life. I’ve seen just how important advanced directives are. You need to make your wishes known and ask your family about theirs.

Yes, it is an uncomfortable conversation to have. No one wants to talk about the what-ifs but it is so, so important. I’ve had an advanced directive since I was 18. I know the Husband’s wishes and he knows mine. I know what my parents want, I know what my grandma wants. They’ve all been so good to me and if, God forbid, something happens, it will be easier do the right thing for them since I know what they would want. I would be able to advocate for my family and give them the comfort and dignity that they deserve.

Not sure how to start the conversation? Use my story. Share it with your husband, wife, mother, father, friend, anyone that may rely on you someday to make these hard choices.

Sent Back: Imagining the Real Costs of a Family’s End-Of-Life Decision was originally published on the American Journal of Nursing’s blog Off The Charts.