What Does a Hospice Nurse Do and is it the Right Job for You
April 28 2020
And Why the Rewards of Being a Hospice Nurse Often Outweighs the Challenges
When we think of the healthcare field and of nurses, we often think of the healing aspect of the work. This idea of healing others is what inspired many to become a nurse in the first place. However, another field in nursing exists where the objective isn’t to heal, but to comfort. This is the work of a hospice nurse.
Hospice is end-of-life care for the terminally ill. It focuses on providing comfort to the patient so they can live out the rest of their days with dignity and enjoy what time they have left. Because of the nature of this work, hospice can be one of the most emotionally difficult fields of nursing to work in. Despite the challenges, it is also often one of the most rewarding of the nursing fields.
Because hospice nurses care for those who are dying, you will deal with death on a regular basis. Spending so much time caring for terminally ill patients can mean that you develop a sense of attachment to them and you may feel very strongly about a loss. And even if you don’t build an attachment to your patients, it can still be hard to not be affected by all the death.
It is key, then, that you believe this field is really the right one for you. Many people believe it takes a special kind of person to want to work on a daily basis with the dying and dealing with death so often. Hospice nurses, themselves, often feel they have been chosen for this field and that it is an honor to work with the dying. Compassion and courage are necessary traits of any nurse, but hospice nurses require those traits in spades. And because death looks different for every person, you must also be comfortable with uncertainty.
Despite the mental and emotional fortitude it takes to do this job, the rewards, for many, often outweigh the disadvantages. You have the opportunity to truly make a meaningful difference in another person’s life. End-of-life care is tailored to meet each patient’s unique needs and while some of that may be checking vitals and managing pain, quite a bit of the care you provide will be emotionally based.
The shift from life-saving medical treatment to end-of-life treatment can be hard to deal with, not only for the patient, but for their family as well. Your job will be to help guide them through this final part of life’s journey, which is without a doubt, emotionally turbulent. This guidance will often come through education about end-of-life care (including how family members can help care for their terminally ill loved one), resources for family members during and after death as well as your just being an ear that will listen to someone’s fears or a shoulder to cry on. In many cases, you may even become the patient or a family caregiver’s biggest confidant or they may even begin to consider you part of the family because you have spent so much time with them during such a vulnerable state. In its essence, this work will provide you the opportunity to offer insight during times of uncertainty, comfort when there is pain and love and understanding when it is needed.
Hospice is also about increasing the quality of life for your patients. This allows them to live out their final days, not in pain but instead enjoying what time they have left with their loved ones. In reality, hospice is not about death, but about celebrating life. And when the time does come, you will have helped provide your patients with a peaceful and dignified death. This simple act of caring has a meaningful impact on both patient and family.
Many in the medical field believe hospice isn’t a job but a higher calling. Hospice nurses embrace the career and often find enjoyment in their work. Hospice nurses believe that the twilight of a person’s life is a special and sacred time and that it is an honor for patients and families to include. While there are challenges to this field of nursing, don’t mistake it for something that is solely sad and draining. It can be a very worthwhile field of care with plenty of opportunity to be emotionally fulfilling.
Hospice is about making human connections on an even deeper level during a time when so many are emotionally vulnerable. It is about guiding people through this challenging time with understanding and a gentle hand, helping them to come to terms with this part of life’s journey. It is about celebrating life and providing a peaceful end-of-life setting for both your patients and their families.