After CNA Training: How to Deal With Losing Your First Patient

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There are a lot of firsts after CNA training, especially when it comes to death. My first death happened on my first day as a full-fledged CNA, and I was thankful for it, though not at the time. It was scary for me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unfortunately, or perhaps luckily, it was one of the worst I would see in my CNA training career so far.

Saying that when you work in a nursing home isn’t much. I didn’t have to deal with gun shot victims or children dying, like you might in a hospital after CNA training. Nursing homes are often called the waiting rooms of heaven. That’s because many of the residents there are expected to pass away at some point; it’s a given. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be prepared for it. When the patient I barely knew died on my first day, I wasn’t prepared. All of the tips I’d been given in CNA training couldn’t have gotten me ready to see her lifeless body lying there on the bed. I stood back away from the more experienced CNAs, handing them wash clothes as they gingerly prepared her body.

There have been other death “firsts” since then. The first time I held a patient’s hand as they slowly drifted away. The first time I lost a patient I had become emotionally attached to. The first time I had to walk out of postmortem care and walk into another patient’s room with a smile on my face.

Dealing with death after CNA training is never easy, but I’ve learned over the years that there are some things you can do to help ease the pain.

Easing the Pain of Loss After CNA Training

  • Talk About it- When a patient dies after CNA training, talking about it helps a lot. Unfortunately, you can’t violate any HIPAA laws to do this. That means you’ll need to choose carefully who to talk to. Other CNAs who assisted in the postmortem care, your nurse manager, and your DON are good choices. If you’re having an especially hard time, your DON may invite you to go to a grief counseling session, where you can discuss what you’re feeling.
  • Talk to the Patient’s Family- Expressing your condolences to the patient’s family is perfectly acceptable after CNA training, and may even help you deal with the loss. Just make sure you’re appropriate when doing so. Remember, this was their family member; your grief should not overshadow theirs. They may however, be willing to share a few stories with you, and you can share your own experiences with them as well.
  • See a Bereavement Counselor- Employee-provided support may not be enough to help you ease the pain of the loss you’ve suffered. If this is the case after CNA training, don’t be afraid to seek out a bereavement counselor. They have special training and communication skills specifically related to death and dying. They can assist you in recovering from the loss after CNA training and even give you tips on how to prevent burnout.

Dealing With Death After CNA Training

When you lose a patient after CNA training, it can be heartbreaking. Learn how to ease that pain and take care of others with these tips for after CNA training.



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