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Not dead until the doctor arrives?

Image: Ryan McVay | Digital Vision | Thinkstock

Many years ago, as a new nursing student, I was assigned to give bed baths to a couple of patients on a med-surg floor. My third patient was a very elderly man who was a “No Code.” As I prepared his washbasin, I couldn’t arouse him by calling his name…or touching him. I took his blood pressure. Couldn’t find it. I put my stethoscope to his chest. No breathing. No heartbeat. I called another nursing student for a consult. She concluded the same thing: He was most likely dead.

I went and reported my findings to the Nursing Supervisor on the floor. She confirmed and then told me I needed to call the physician to report the situation.

I was scared to death to talk to the doctor! What if he asked me some tough questions?! I told him what I had observed: “No blood pressure, no breathing.”

He asked, “How about a pulse?”

“No, no pulse.”

The doctor: “Young lady, are you trying to tell me the patient is dead?”

Me (in a quivering voice): “Oh, no sir, that would be a diagnosis, and I’m not allowed to diagnose. I’m just reporting my findings.”

The doctor was still laughing when he hung up, and so were all the nurses at the nursing station who were listening in.


Shay McKelvey

Shay McKelvey, Founder of BFitSanDiego, is an exercise physiologist and registered nurse. She has been in the health & fitness industry for more than 2 decades and is passionate about sharing health & fitness with anyone who will listen. As a nurse and former Director of Cardiac Surgery & Organ Transplant programs, she has seen the effects of lack of exercise and poor eating. As a fitness trainer, Shay has coached frail elderly, overweight individuals, fitness nuts and competitive athletes to be the best they can be. She is an expert on health, fitness and vibrant aging. She balances her intellectual pursuits with weight training, running, hiking, biking, kayaking…and all sorts of other fun ways to challenge herself.

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