Words from caregivers: “If you die with each of your patients, you stop medicine”



“Before, the profile of ICU patients was such that death could seem like a distant event. The Covid has changed things. Confrontation with death is more frequent and the patients, still mostly elderly, sometimes make us think of our parents, our grandparents. And there are a number of young people, who seem very close to us. It marks us and it even questions us about our own death.

The death rate, usually 20% in intensive care, has increased to 40%. We therefore see twice as many of our patients die. And there is a bias: as soon as a patient is a little better, they are sent to another department to free up some space. So for a long time we only see patients who are doing very badly, on average between 14 and 21 days, against seven previously.

The right distance

I remember my first death. He was a very nice retired architect. Before his condition deteriorated, I had spoken with him a lot. So much so that the next day, I said to myself: “It’s nice, I’ll see it when you visit”. He died 48 hours later. It affected me. You shouldn’t get attached unreasonably and take a sentimental burden home. Because if you die with each of your patients, you end up stopping medicine very quickly.

→ EXPLANATION. Covid-19: what does “go into intensive care” mean?

To distance oneself would be a bad idea. You always have to keep empathy, but not compassion. The goal is to come to understand what the patient feels without feeling it himself, so as not to burn his wings. Even if, like it or not, there are deaths that mark us. All it takes is a first name or date of birth that resonates with me, and I identify the patient with someone I know, that’s terrible.

My mechanism for dealing with death is to read philosophy and talk to my friends, who are very present. I also always wonder what I can do to ensure that loved ones experience it in the best possible way. This requires clear information and an attitude of presence and support. “

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