ICU Nurse Walked Out in the Middle of His Shift, Found Dead 2 Days Later

A traveling nurse who was working an overnight shift in Stanford Hospital’s neurological intensive care unit in Palo Alto, California, told his supervisor around 4:30 am that he needed to retrieve something he had left in his car, and then never returned, according to reports.

Two days after his roommate reported him missing, Michael Odell’s body was found by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office dive team in the water near San Francisco’s Dumbarton Bridge, where his car was also discovered.

Odell’s roommate and close friend, Joshua Christopher Paredes, also a nurse at another hospital, told local FOX affiliate station KTVU that Odell’s death highlights the need for hospitals to be more cognizant of the trauma and pain that their healthcare workers have endured during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I just, I don’t understand how that happened,” Paredes said. “A nurse doesn’t just leave their patients unless they’re in danger. That’s the only reason that would happen — or they’re hurt somewhere.”

While Odell’s death has not been ruled a suicide, news of his sudden passing has heard an alarm across the healthcare provider community, many of whom have been calling for more robust mental health services since the start of the pandemic.

A 2021 survey illuminated the dire mental health situation among many nurses. More than half of 9,500 critical care nurses who were last October said they were “not emotionally healthy,” a trend that was particularly severe among younger nurses ages 25 to 34 (Odell was 27 years old at the time of his death).

Discussing the prevalence of substance use disorders among nurses during the pandemic, Rodrigo “Rigo” Garcia, MBA, MSN, APN, CRNA, who works with nurses in treatment in Chesterton, Indiana, explained to MedPage Today how COVID-19 has worsened nurses’ mental health.

“We’re seeing advanced stages of mental health, depression, and anxiety. We’re seeing helplessness and hopelessness. We’re seeing suicide ideations increase,” Garcia said.

Since Odell’s body was recovered, a GoFundMe page has been organized to provide his family with financial assistance to cover funeral expenses. On the site, expressions of sympathy from donors who identified as fellow or retired nurses underscore just how ubiquitous mental health struggles can be for those working in the field.

“I’m a nurse too, I’ve been in that low a place before as well. Wish this didn’t happen to you, but I can understand. I hope you are at peace now,” one donor wrote in an accompanying notes.

“I am a nurse with two young children. These have been the hardest years of my life …” another note read.

“I hope people realize the stress we feel as RNs as a result of this intense career and the lives we touch daily and that those thoughts don’t just go away when we get home,” wrote another donor, a recently retired RN.

Print a statement to MedPage TodayStanford Health Care, Julie Greicius said the hospital staff is “deeply sad” by the tragic loss of Odell.

“While Michael Odell, a traveling nurse, was with Stanford Health Care for just one month, he was a valued member of our community,” she added.

  • Kara Grant joined the Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team at MedPage Today in February 2021. She covers psychiatry, mental health, and medical education. Theo dõi

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