Then there was last week. It was very exciting, we had a new consult, and G. suggested I “take the lead.” The first time we went to see the patient (delirium over dementia, hospitalized for pneumonia) was not conscious and his daughter had gone for the day, so we had an extensive talk with the (adult) grandson. Mostly we got background on the patient’s living situation, his character and values, and the course of this present illness. On Wednesday I said I wanted to go up and visit with the patient and family, and we agreed it was OK for me to go by myself. This time the daughter was there, and we got more clarification of goals and desires regarding level of treatment. I also consulted with the nurse, who happened to be an old friend of mine, which made it a lot easier. After a while, I went back to our “little tin shed,” discussed with G. what our recommendations should be and worked on the note I’d started the day before. I had even come up with a few recommendations of my own. I left feeling pleased with my progress and competence.
On Thursday, I looked up the patient’s chart from home (I have remote access and our records are almost all electronic) and found out he’d died at 0500 that day!
Made me feel a bit odd, especially since he didn’t appear to even be actively dying. I did notice that our recommendations had been implemented, and I felt like my conversations with the family had been helpful for them and the hospital staff.
If it happens again next week, I don’t know what I’ll think!