The words “hospice care” make most people flinch. They associate hospices with suffering and dying, so they are not eager to talk about it. Most people are even less eager to go into hospice care as a profession. However, it is a noble calling that many nurses and other health care professionals pursue. If you are considering going into a career in hospice care, prepare yourself with knowledge regarding what it entails.
The nature of hospice means your patients will have poor prognoses. Admission to hospice usually means the patient is expected to live six months or fewer if the disease runs its expected course. As a result, you must be familiar with the grieving process for patients, survivors, and yourself. You’ll need to learn to communicate sensitively yet effectively with everyone involved. Be prepared to refer survivors to bereavement counseling and get some yourself if the emotional aspects of hospice become difficult to bear.
Quality of Life
Many patients resist hospice care, stereotyping hospice as the end of the line, the place you go when nothing more can be done. In fact, the opposite is true, and nurses can help send this message.
Good hospice care is about emotional, mental, and spiritual support as much as medical care and pain management. Hospice professionals are concerned with helping patients maintain quality of life; for example, much of today’s hospice care takes place in the home. As a hospice nurse, you have an opportunity to make a patient’s last days as enjoyable and memorable as possible. Be prepared to build rapport, show compassion, and communicate often with patients and survivors.
Shifting from Care to Comfort
As a hospice nurse, your focus will not be on saving or preserving life. Instead, it will be on comfort and palliative care. Some medical professionals believe this isn’t as rewarding as saving lives, but providing comfort can be one of the most rewarding things you do.
If you enter hospice care, your duties will still be varied and challenging. For instance, you may have to help physicians determine the best combination of medicines and pain management techniques. You may be asked to help a patient find ways to enjoy hobbies like exercise, even if they are physically difficult. You will be a medical expert, but your first role may be that of advocate and friend.