Should nurses believe in ghosts?

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How many night nurses have you met who swear they have, at one time or another, seen or heard something during their shifts that can’t quite be explained?

According to a CBS News article in 2005, 22 percent of Americans believe they have seen or felt a ghost and 48 percent said they believe in ghosts.

As healthcare professionals who deal with life and death on a regular basis, nurses would naturally contemplate questions regarding the human soul—where does it go after the patient has departed?

Can souls of the deceased linger and touch the living?

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, you’ll surely hear many nurse ghost stories during your years of practice. Here’s one of them—my own.

I was working the night shift (11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.) in a nine-bed residential palliative care facility. The building was fairly new and had been open for several years.

One night, I was sitting in the nursing station. Around 3 a.m., my colleague left to take a break, leaving me alone. All the patients were sleeping, and there were no overnight visitors.

All of a sudden, I heard a noise that I couldn’t place. I popped my head out of the office door and looked down the hall toward the patient rooms. I had thought perhaps someone was up. I saw there was nothing and turned in the other direction, toward the reception area. There, I saw something strange. In an empty room, the office chair moved from side to side as if someone had just quickly gotten up out of it. The place was silent—just the slight noise of the chair as it moved from side to side. I stood and watched the chair move slower and slower until it finally stopped. Then, I felt it. The air around me had been disturbed and I could feel it on my skin.

I could hear no sound coming from the patient rooms, nor from where my colleague was resting. There were no windows open or fans that were on. I even checked to see if anything had fallen off a shelf that may have hit the chair to make it move. I couldn’t find anything. Was it an earthquake? A tremor? A truck passing by? I looked around at all the other chairs that had stood still, the wall hangings that hadn’t budged.

I’ll admit I was spooked. There was nothing that could have caused the chair to move the way it did.

When I think back to that night, I still feel funny. I’m left wondering if someone who had passed away in that facility had come back to check on us. In palliative and hospice care, we know our patients will die. It is our job to help them pass through the stage of dying with as little pain and discomfort as possible. Death doesn’t intimidate us nor does it scare us. Death is a part of life. But what are ghosts?

Do you have a ghost story?

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