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Table 5 Exemplar narrative

From: Learning and coping through reflection: exploring patient death experiences of medical students

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“In my last week of 5th year one of the patients we had been looking after died suddenly on the ward. The cardiac arrest alert went out but was then cancelled as he had a DNACPR [do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation] in place. Having never confirmed a death before I took the opportunity to go along with the FY1 [foundation year 1] to perform this.
On entering the room with the registrar and F1 [foundation year 1] there was a nurse there. The registrar began to go over the process of confirmation then left the F1 and myself to it. At this point the nurse asked if she should leave as the patient was a relative. The F1 and myself, while having said nothing inappropriate, were mortified by the whole situation and felt terrible! We moved on to confirm the death, then went to speak to the [family member] who could not have been nicer about the whole situation. I was the one to confirm the death, and while the upset with the relative happened, I feel this was overall a positive experience. It has taught me to always check identities for one thing. I feel it is very beneficial to carry out this process as a medical student, and I feel better prepared for FY1 as a consequence.
I talked through this with both the FY and my supervisor, and reflected on it in my portfolio. I think it is something that should be covered more thoroughly in the curriculum - my experience was very beneficial, but was purely by chance and by actively seeking out this experience.”
If you could change anything about the support, what would it be?
“I don’t think death and the accompanying tasks that need to be performed by medical staff are well covered/taught by the medical school. I think we should have a clinical skills session at some point taking us through confirming and certifying death - the practical and emotional aspects.”
  1. Bold type indicates item in questionnaire