TikTok of Nurse Reacting To Patient's Death Goes Viral, Sparks Backlash

4 Min Read Published July 18, 2022
TikTok of Nurse Reacting To Patient's Death Goes Viral, Sparks  Backlash

Image: TikTok

Although I’m no longer a floor nurse, I take a lot of comfort in watching TikToks and reels from nurses in the trenches. There’s just something I find familiar knowing there are other people who understand what it’s like to feel the exhaustion of 3 AM on a night shift, to not remember driving home, and to deal with fecal disimpaction as part of your job—even today, I remember how difficult some aspects of nursing were and I am grateful to know it wasn’t just me. 

So when I recently came across several “duets” mocking a nurse who had made a TikTok about her patient dying, I didn’t quite know what to think. From the snark going around, I wondered if the nurse had turned a somber moment into a dance or if they had somehow violated patient safety. But when I watched it, I was surprised by how relatively simple it was really was: set to the background of the song, “Unstoppable,” the video showed a nurse in blue scrubs, alone in a hallway and appearing distressed, with the text, “lost a patient today.” 

It then goes on to show her bending over—again in distress and removing her mask, with the words, “shake it off, you have 5 more hours” scrolling above her head as she appears to gather herself.
The caption read: “It never gets easier.” 

@olivia_tye0225 It never gets easier #fyp #nurse #nursesoftiktok #travelnurse #rn #likeabombshell #scrublife #fy #foryoupage ♬ Unstoppable Cover by Britton - Britton

However simple the video was, it struck a nerve, allegedly wracking up thousands of comments from people who felt her behavior was unprofessional in light of someone’s death. It also spurred countless parody videos, like this one and this one

The nurse who had made the TikTok got ridiculed so badly, in fact, that she ended up changing her account. It appears the original video was posted by Olivia Vanderford, a single mom of two, who changed her user name to olivia_tye0225 and closed comments on the video.

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Because this is the internet, the clip has also been saved and reshared on many other accounts as well, like this one, where it amassed close to 15 million views, re-tweeted thousands of times with endless comments:

Source: Twitter/@ateenyalien

Honestly, I’m torn on this one. I have seen far more ridiculous things on the Internet than a nurse expressing what is undoubtedly a very difficult situation—it really is so hard to have a job that requires you to move right on to the next patient after dealing with your patient dying and it might not be something that everyone really stops to think about with nurses. 

For instance, if you’re a patient and you’re perhaps upset that your nurse doesn’t seem the friendliest, it could definitely change your perspective that they may be dealing with some very difficult emotional pain themselves. A lot of people defended the nurse in various follow-up videos, noting that she was simply trying to process a very real and very difficult part of what nurses have to do during a shift.

“I think the whole point [of] the original video was made was to show losing a patient affects them emotionally ànd they still have to work 5 hrs,” TikTok user Sandi Holt166 pointed out.

“The first time I lost a patient it was hard. No family came. I had an admit within 1hr after body was taken. I didn’t know how to feel,” bjd2643, another TikTok user, added. 

“I don’t understand why you guys are making fun of her. She’s clearly upset and doesn’t know how she can work another 5 hours after a death,” Orlito and Mommy commented on TikTok.

However, still others believe that it was not the time and place to be doing any filming of yourself in such a somber time.

“I’m a nurse and not once have I thought, ‘this is a TikTok moment.’ What is wrong with people?” said TikTok user jendalern

“its the fact she wouldve just opened tiktok normally most likely without emotion and then proceeds to press timer on 3 seconds then walks back,” added another TikTok comment. 

“Im all for using TikTok as an outlet afterall its NEVER EASY losing sum1 but THIS just came accross as her using the death for publicity n attention😬,” said bigdaddiojbon TikTok.

Like I said, I’m still really torn on this one. By the looks of Vanderhorn’s profile, she does a lot of processing through her TikToks (her videos touch on the struggles of apparently being cheated on by her ex, being a single mom, and working on her mental health), so I can’t say I fault her for processing what is undoubtedly a situation where there is no one “right” way to get through it. 

Plus, we can’t say for sure that she filmed that TikTok at the exact moments following her patient actually passing away—it very well could have been during a break, or pre or post-shift for all we know, when she was actually processing her emotions.

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter what any of us think because it appears that Vanderford is doing just fine, because she recently posted a TikTok of herself dancing with her kids and even reposted what she titled her “own duet” of the video, poking fun at herself. 

I do think the strong reactions to the video and it going viral—even among non-healthcare workers—is a good opportunity for us all to remember that what nurses go through is very unique. And maybe we need to take a minute before we jump to judging how they get through their shifts. (But also, nurses, be careful about posting TikToks during work too- and if you’re struggling, consider reaching out to a professional for mental health support!) 
What do you think about the viral video—did she go too far or do you think nurses have the right to do whatever they need to do get through a tough shift, TikTok videos included?

Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie
Nurse.org Contributor

Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery. Her work has appeared everywhere from Glamor to The New York Times to The Washington Post. Chaunie lives with her husband and five kids in the middle of a hay field in Michigan and you can find more of her work here

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