Caring Presence

A life lost, meaning found
One night while making her rounds at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon, veteran nurse Sandra Clarke, CCRN, checked on a frail, elderly patient (one of seven she was assigned to that night) who was near death. "Will you stay with me?" the man asked in a barely audible voice. "Sure," she said, "as soon as I check on my other patients."

Over the next hour and a half, she tended to her other six patients. By the time she was able to return to the man's room, he had passed away. While Sandra told herself that her patient was old and obviously failing, that there were orders to not resuscitate him, and even if she had returned sooner could have done nothing, she remained troubled that he died alone.

Reflecting on that night led Sandra to almost single-handedly create No One Dies Alone, a program that recruits hospital employees from every department to sit with dying patients who are alone. Clarke's program began in 2001 and is now operational in healthcare facilities from Alaska to New York, as well as in Singapore and Japan. The No One Dies Alone manual has been distributed to more than 400 hospitals, hospices, and AIDS care facilities worldwide.

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