Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Providing comfort

As a nurse, I've sat with countless families in those initial moments after a loved one has passed away. As cliche as it sounds, it is something that just comes with the territory. I'd worked for 3 years on a medical-surgical unit, where many of my patients were dealing with end of life issues (military medicine didn't have an established hospice program, my unit was the closest thing they had). I know how to comfort the grieving.

Today, I found myself again sitting with a family as they processed the news that they had lost a loved one.

The difference? This family was my "work family". And the loss, was that of Mr. K. He is the teacher that collapsed last November while teaching math. His health since then had been up and down. His passing yesterday was sudden in that recent reports had been filled with how well he was doing. Honestly, as a nurse, I had a sense this day would come and in many ways, was surprised it didn't happen sooner than yesterday.

What took me by surprise today, was watching my administrators step in and create a plan. They brought in extra counselors. They brought in extra subs to cover for the teachers in the math department if they found they just couldn't get back in there and teach. We had an early morning "core crisis" meeting, followed by an all staff meeting. We met with the students that were there when he first collapsed. We had a special announcement to the entire student body. Counselors called the homes of the students who had Mr. K but were absent today. The list could go on and on.

The nurse in me was sort of thinking "Yeah, and so?". Not meaning to sound cold and insensitive, but hey, death happens.

And then it dawned on me...wait a minute...I am now a school nurse. Death doesn't happen that often in a school. It shouldn't happen. Teaching and learning: that is what should be happening every day. Not mourning losses. And yet when tragedy does strike a school, at least the school I am fortunate enough to work at, comes together, creates a plan and gets the job done.
What a wonderful thing it was to watch another profession provide comfort to those who are grieving. Yes, a bit different than the way nurses provide it. But, effective just the same.
Farewell Mr. K. Your work family will miss you dearly.


tz said...

so sorry to hear that martha. It's wonderful to see though the school administrators rally around and create a nurturing work place.

Laura said...

Am sorry to hear of your school's loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with those of you who knew him best. What a blessing it is to work in such a supportive environment at a difficult time like this.