Michelle Linenberger

It's okay to talk about death

Michelle shares how watching another nurse be with a dying patient helped teach her that she can handle talking to patients and providers about how patients would like to die.

portrait of Michelle Linenberger, nurse at UC Davis Health


I was a new graduate nurse. We were in a different ICU. There was the window between, and I remember watching this incredibly experienced nurse be with this patient, cystic fibrosis patient, while she died. I'm thinking, "I don't know if I can ever be who she is. I hope I can. But how do you get there?"

Now, as I am teaching nurses in simulation, and we do a survey and ask, "Do you feel like this is helpful?" They said they don't feel scared. You don't want to let that family down.

You know you're trained to take care of the patient, but you just don't want to let them down. Again, if I can not have there be any more pain.

It's also helping families gain some control in the end. "Knowing our resources, how do you want to die? Do you want to hold your child while we take them off the ventilator? Do we take the tape off the face? Do you want to wrap them in the blanket? Do you want to bathe them?" So I think those things are incredibly empowering for us and for the family.