Clinical placements

Struggle to provide peace for dying patient in the emergency department

When a patient nearing the end of life was brought into the emergency department, nursing student Mallory Mepsted’s refusal to move her out of a side room helped ensure she died with dignity.

When a patient nearing the end of life was brought into the emergency department, nursing student Mallory Mepsted’s refusal to move her out of a side room helped ensure she died with dignity


Picture: iStock

In my first year of training I was working in an emergency department when an acutely unwell patient was brought in by ambulance.

The patient was in her late eighties and had a palliative care plan in place at home, but a relative had panicked when her condition deteriorated and called the paramedics.

Once the patient had been assessed, and the hospital staff became aware of her condition, it was clear that she was nearing the end of life. The patient was put in a side room, but due to a shortage of beds, we were asked by management to move her.

Although I didn’t know precisely how long the patient had left to live, I thought that moving her out of the side room would be unfair and undignified, so objected to this.

Determination that paid off

I didn’t want the patient to die in the corridor or in the lift, nor did I want her to feel the bumps and spins of the bed as she was moved. I wanted the patient and her relative to feel safe and well cared for.

I am glad I stuck to my guns, because 20 minutes after it was agreed that the patient would not be moved she died. Although her death was not as dignified as it could have been due to the busy environment of the emergency department, I am glad the patient was able to pass away peacefully in the side room.

This experience had a huge impact on the care I give to patients. Whether it is making them better or helping them feel comfortable in their last days of life, I want to be able to make a difference by delivering the best care I possibly can.

Carer support

I know that hospitals are not the best places for patients at the end of life, and that hospices can provide better quality end of life care. But it is naïve to think that patients with palliative and end-of-life care needs won’t die in hospital – many do, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

I want to provide high quality care to my patients throughout my nursing career, and ensure that I do the best I can to treat them with the empathy, dignity and respect they deserve.

I would also like to see more support for those caring for terminally ill patients at home. If the family of this patient had received better support they might not have felt the need to call an ambulance, and she could have spent her last few hours at home with her loved ones rather than in a busy emergency department.


malloryMallory Mepsted is a second-year nursing student at Anglia Ruskin University 

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