Crucial Skills®

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Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

Before & After: I Felt Like a Nurse Again by Gaylen T.

Attending Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations Training has been of great benefit to me both personally and professionally. I am diligent about sharing the books, audio companions, and the Crucial Skills Newsletter with my staff.

I work in a non-clinical department within a trauma center staffed by very experienced nurses in emergency and/or critical care—which contributes to the amazing and thorough work they do in their current roles. I shared your recent Q&A article, “Coping with the Loss of a Loved One” with my staff and received the following e-mail, titled “I felt like a nurse again,” in response:

“Last Wednesday as I was leaving the ICU, I did something I have often wanted to do but didn’t feel comfortable doing. A woman was walking down the hall toward the waiting room, and she was crying—not an uncommon sight. I slowed down, walked along side her, and said I was so sorry for whatever she was going through. I thought it was probably related to one of my patients, but I wasn’t positive. She seemed relieved and said, “It is so hard.” I kept walking with her and asked if she was alone and if I could get her a drink of water. She said family was in the waiting room and that she had a bottle of water in her bag. Just before we got to the ICU waiting room, she stopped and leaned toward me for a hug, then stood for a few minutes before going into the waiting room. At that point, I left.

“If it hadn’t been for the Crucial Skills Newsletter you sent and a recent experience with another coworker who recently lost her husband, I don’t think I would have had the courage to actually approach this woman. I am very thankful that I did so.

“Years ago, I read a book written by a man whose young wife died in the ICU and he says the longest walk of your life is from the hospital to your car after your loved one has died. I have often wondered if there is any way someone can walk out with those folks who stand alone at the bedside when their family member dies. This is just another example of how a small gesture can make a large impact.”

So, I want to thank you for making these resources available to me and my staff. We still contribute to the profession we love and demonstrate this commitment to our patients, families, and associates.

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18 thoughts on “Before & After: I Felt Like a Nurse Again by Gaylen T.”

  1. Joan

    Wow! As a nurse, I am very touched by that story. If our patient has died, why can’t we, the nurse, take the time to walk family out? Or perhaps call the chaplain, or whoever is designated. What a wonderful idea.
    As a nursing administrator, I have learned something every time I read the newsletter. How enriching!

    1. LuLani

      Yes, I agree. Just being there for someone in despair using the 80% listening and 20% talking rule helps a whole lot.
      Thank you for sharing!

  2. Evon Buckley

    When my 1 1/2 year old son died 20 years ago, that walk out of the hospital was one of the most difficult moments of my life. Though I was with my family, the caring presence of a nurse or chaplain would have made the steps of walking to my new reality a bit easier. When I look back at my 30 years of nursing, I can think of so many times this would have provided comfort and strength to the families. I would love to see this become a consistent practice.


    Please, write this up and get it into nursing journals! We really need these communication skills and the suggestion to call someone to walk the newly bereaved out. Even better, we need someone to drive them home, because they absolutely are NOT safe drivers at this point.

    1. Miriam Ndivo

      Great idea of even taking the next step of driving them home.

  4. Rebecca

    What you did was absolutely awesome. My Mom died last year. They wouldn’t tell us until after we got to the Emergency Room. It amazes me that with all of the training medical professionals get, they don’t get training in grief counseling. I felt so alone, and the staff did nothing to comfort or assure me. I hope other medical staff read this and understand how important it is to just be human to those going through death or a loss of health.

  5. Joyce

    Does anyone know the name of that book?

  6. Wendy

    I enjoyed reading this article. It was renewing and reassuring. It reminded me of why we became nurses… at least, why I became a nurse. And it also reminded me of the human vulnerability that constitutes all of us, and the need for comfort (or perhaps just the presence of another person) that we all have at ‘crucial times’. To me, this was a crucial gesture for all involved… and it came at just the right time. I felt comforted and reassured just reading it. Thank you.

  7. editor

    @Joyce The book Gaylen’s coworker is referring to above is Surviving Death: A Practical Guide to Caring for the Dying & Bereaved by Charles Meyer.

  8. Colette

    I am going to look for this book. I think it would be quite helpful.

  9. lisa roy

    I think I will look for this book in the library.

  10. frAnCK

    Did you ever think, there are other countries/cultures where ppl are dying at home? Or even in the hospital are more family members? Or religions where ppl believe the Lord has much better plan for person who left our world?

  11. Kathy

    Just a few minutes of our time, can help another person so much.

  12. Kathy

    A few moments of our time can help another person very much.

  13. Jackie McCOLLOM

    Inspiring article. We can learn so much by seeing another persons pain and offering help. Even it if is not required it is nice to know we tried to make a difference

    1. Vlad

      It is hard to evaluate the impact of a good word and a hug in such a critical moment, After all, we are all human, and we all need support in a crucial stage of our life. I remember when my dad passed away, people said different words, but some people didn’t know what to say; they just said, “I am with you, let me know how you are doing, ” etc.; it felt like someone lifted a heavy burden from my shoulders.

  14. Gilles Chatelain

    Ths is very emotional and hope lot of people help like this person did.

  15. Jatan Patel

    Emotional and heart touching but true.

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