Sunday, October 9, 2011
One of our responsibilities while on call is to do death pronouncements for people who die in the hospital.  These are generally people who were DNR, frequently in palliative or hospice care.  We get called with a couple hours after they die and have to go and confirm it, and declare a time of death. 

It's always a little disconcerting, walking towards the room of someone you only know as dead.  Rarely have we ever met these people before.  I don't know how they died or how long they'd been sick.  I don't know their family, what the patient will look like, or who they left behind.  I know nothing, yet my job is to go and say yes, your family member really is gone forever.  When I step back and think about it, it's a strange job.

But generally that's not what I'm thinking about when I'm pronouncing someone.  I'm thinking about the admissions I have waiting for me, or the labs I have to follow up on, or the RAT call I just finished.  It's another task to check of my long list of things to get done in a 12 hour period. 

It only takes a few minutes... check for breathing, check for heart sounds, feel for a pulse, check their pupils, see if they respond to voice or pain, write a note, declare a time of death. 

Usually I see the chaplain in passing, and they fill me in on some of the details: what happened, how the family is doing, whether or not this was expected. 

And then I leave, on to the next task, one pronouncement down, more things to do.

Just another day for me, and a day the family will always remember...


About Me

I am a Family Medicine intern at a community hospital in Indiana, navigating the new world of being a physician. I am privileged to work in a field I love, where every day is a new and unpredictable challenge.
I am not only a doctor, but also a cyclist, runner, DIYer in the making, lover of the outdoors, traveler, and human.
Human, MD is a glimpse into the world of a young doctor who is just trying to stay true to herself through the grueling whirlwind of residency.


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