Advice for the New Hospice Nurse

Nursing is difficult work in general, but hospice is one of the hardest jobs in the field. Here are just a few of the things you should know before deciding that Hospice is the field you wish to specialize in.

Attachment to the patient

I always hear the phrase, “You must be good at being detached from your patients”, when in fact that isn’t true at all. You cannot give good care to someone with that attitude. You are sharing one of the most intimate moments of a person’s life, the very last moment.

Death doesn’t have to be sad

It’s rather odd to think of death as a happy event isn’t it? I thought so too in the beginning. Think of it this way; most of these people are in pain, struggled for a long time, and are tired of fighting. Be thankful that they find relief. There will always be those patients that are there due to horrible circumstances, but for the most part, they are truly ready to go.

Family Members

Most families are wonderful to work with, however you need to remember that they are going through one of the hardest things to deal with in life, the death of a loved one. You do run across families that find it totally appropriate to fight at a time like this. First and foremost you are there for the patient. Do not get involved in any family matters. It is totally appropriate to tell problem people to leave the room. If they wish to get physical with you, your best choice is to leave the room and call hospital security.

Medications

Most hospice patients are on high dosages of medications such as Morphine or Ativan, and receive them more frequently than normal. Remember that hospice is about making them as comfortable as possible, we don’t need to worry about them becoming addicted.

Comfort for the grieving family

While your patient and their comfort is the main focus, don’t forget about the loved ones if they are there. Be respectful of their pain. Let them have alone time with the patient before and after death. Offer to call clergy. Whatever you can do to make things easier for them is also a part of your job.

Being a hospice nurse was a rewarding experience and it really does take a special kind of nurse. Remember, it’s ok to care. It’s ok to cry. Just keep in mind that you helped make someone’s last moments alive as comfortable as you could.

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