The Empty Bed: The Travel Nurse's Perspective on Losing a Patient

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By Amy Queen

June 12, 2021

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The Empty Bed: The Travel Nurse’s Perspective on Losing a Patient


The Empty Bed…

I leaned over you as you tried to pump life back into your soul again.

The look in your eyes was indicative that you were already gone, but we tried against the reaper to win.  Your family wept and told us to keep trying. They didn’t want to let you leave.

So, we continued, with all of us in a silent conversation with the others knowing it wasn’t something we could achieve. 

“Please quit, that’s enough.”

empty bed

Finally, after rounds and rounds of medications, shocks, and pumping so hard on your chest, we have sweat pouring down our faces.  The family said, “Please quit. That’s enough.” Tears filled my eyes as I tried to hide it by staring at my shoelaces.   They said goodbye to you, and we took the appropriate steps to clean you up, call the funeral home, and prepare for them to pick you up in the middle of the night.   Your eyes were glazed over and shiny as if the next thing you saw was what we all dream of …. that mysterious light. 

Who were you?

I wondered if you had been a teacher, a pastor, a truck driver, or maybe you worked on cars for a living. 

I hoped you met your maker with all the love you deserved and the feeling of forgiving.  I try to remember you were someone’s dad, husband, brother, son, and friend.  It hurts me to know you were surrounded by strangers in the end. 

Those strangers

But those strangers would give anything to bring you back to how you were before you met us in this place.  They lovingly take care of every gender, ethnicity, color, and race.   We watch the life leave your body and go to a place none of us know and understand.  We did everything in our power to keep you alive and well and heal you with our hands.  We then eat lunch, laugh and play as if nothing ever happened, and prepare ahead.  For the next soul to come in who needs us, the next soul to fill “the empty bed.”

We give up everything to save you and lose a little of ourselves every time.

Next time, you wonder why you come across nurses with that look that is always on their faces and in their eyes.  It’s because we give up everything to save you and lose a little of ourselves every time we lose one of you guys.  Thank a nurse, a doctor, a tech, a respiratory therapist, the lab, radiology, dietary, and EVS.  We do a lot to prepare this empty bed and, in hopes, pray we send you back out no matter how and knowing we did our best. 

The tears hit

We then may excuse ourselves to the bathroom or even wait until we get to the car.

Then the tears hit, or we turned up a loud song and sat by ourselves as we drive near and far.   We tried so hard to save you, and we couldn’t do it that day, and how I wish we could have changed it or helped more with something we could have said.   Instead, we must keep moving because the next one is coming, and they need us.

So again, we pull out the “empty bed.” 


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