For medical school students, Benjamin Franklin’s ubiquitous remark about death and taxes is particularly apropos. But while taxes will come into play years down the road, death is usually introduced on the very first day in the form of the cadaver you meet in Gross Anatomy. Death becomes more consequential, however, the first time a patient whose care you are directly involved with dies.
Perhaps you are part of the code team that tries unsuccessfully to revive him or her, or perhaps you simply find out about it after the fact. Either way, it is certain to happen.
When a patient you have been looking after dies, many emotions may come into play. We as physicians-in-training are trained to cure patients and improve their quality of life and in this context, we may feel that we have failed when someone dies. Patients may often develop a closer bond with us than with other medical staff — as we are able to spend longer time with patients than our attending, and they may confide in us more than others.
That first death, may be difficult, and the only thing you can do is know where to go for help.