Death Through a Nurse’s Eyes: A Commentary

In the past year many of us have read with a mixture of sorrow, awe, and camaraderie, nurses’ accounts of giving care to COVID19 patients, particularly in the ICU. We have seen the bruised faces of nurses, overwhelmed and overburdened by their everyday work during the pandemic. In a recent posting in the New York Times, two videographers followed two ICU nurses working in a hospital in Phoenix, producing the documentary, “Death through a nurse’s eyes”. Over a span of two days the nurses wore cameras and recorded their activities in the intensive care unit. There are many novel and unanticipated ways nurses have learned to care for patients and their families during the pandemic.  As noted by Dr. Benner, “These ordinary feats become essential and extraordinary in the isolation and infection prevention measures common to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

The video itself is impactful, and combined with Dr. Benner’s article speaks volumes towards illustrating the everyday ethical comportment that is part of the three apprenticeships of nursing practice, one of the Benner Institute’s primary aims. Dr. Benner’s article describes skills of involvement, the embodied caring practices and connection to patients and their families that nurses demonstrate in times of vulnerability, whether a birth, death, or other disruption of health in the lives of individuals. By demonstrating nurses’ skills of involvement during extraordinary times, the film represents (in Dr. Benner’s words) “the collective experience of patients, families, and nurses all over this country and the world.”

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