I have often heard that the last sense to go is hearing. I have also heard the same about smell and touch. I don't know really what is the truth. I have experience with the end of life, and I still really don't instinctively know what people can hear or taste at the end of life. I do know that I am a fanatic about patient oral care, and that I insist on music or the white noise of CNN with my sedated patients. But, I also know that I have no real qualms with taking shop while cleaning up a code brown when a patient is sedated and intubated. There is also a never-ending joke about how in the ICU we are happy to have sedated patients when there has been a large amount of bean dip or cruciferous vegetables consumed the night before - it is easy to blame the man in the bed. I refrain from talking about a patient's condition or prognosis, but am not inhibited when discussing another nurses sex life, or what my weekend plans are. I often take personal calls in sedated person's room, and will chat while drawing blood or giving meds. I like to think the personal commentary breaks up the monotony of unyielding beeps and alarms that are part of the ICU experience.
This is probably crap, and I am a horrible person for dehumanizing my patients, and I do get paid a fair amount of money per hour, so there is really no excuse for not maintaining strict professional standards. Still saying this, I don't really buy that my people are there enough to hear everything that is going on around them. Most will wake up after they are extubated and say that they don't remember anything, and I like to think that maybe I gave them some good dreams talking about my wicked hangover, and the fun love making I (I mean my fellow nurse - of course) had the night before.