May 20, 2015
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Hospice nurses focus on caring for individuals with terminal illnesses. They are dedicated to providing support and comfort to patients and their families in the final days of the patient’s life.
Hospice nurses rarely work alone. They usually form part of a patient’s healthcare team, which can include other nurses, physicians, counsellors, home health aides, volunteers, clergy and others. They may provide care in a patient’s home or they may work in long-term care facilities, tertiary care centres or inpatient hospices. Part of the responsibility also includes showing family members how to care for their loved one. Hospice nurses also often serve as a liaison between the family and community support networks and grief groups.
Hospice nursing was born from the recognition that dying people and their families have a unique set of physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Instead of treatment and cure, hospice care focuses on comfort. Hospice nurses establish a close rapport with their patients and create highly customised care plans based on the each individual’s disease process and psychosocial needs.
Comfort and support are the primary objectives of hospice care. Hospice nurses work together with other healthcare professionals to establish and maintain effective pain control regimens, which may vary from one patient to another. Some individuals may prefer to be pain-free even if it means that they have to spend most of the day sedated. Other patients yearn for longer periods of lucidity even if that means they have to endure some pain. Hospice nurses tailor their care in accordance with their patients’ wishes and priorities.
As a hospice nurse, it is most important that you understand the dying process so that you can provide the necessary emotional support to patients and their loved ones as they come to terms with death. This knowledge will also help you explain the physical process of death to family members. Most people find reassurance and comfort in this type of anticipatory guidance.
While most nurses who specialise in hospice care are generalists, some may choose sub-specialise in areas such as oncology, geriatrics or paediatrics.
According to experienced hospice nurses, some of the most essential criteria for this field include compassion, an acceptance and comfort with the thought of dying and a genuine desire to help people experience a good and peaceful death.
Hospice nurses are generally RNS who undertake additional training in pain and symptom management and other end-of-life issues. There is a lot of education involved in this field as you have to have the necessary knowledge and skills in the various aspects of pain management, medications and their side effects and the signs and symptoms of death. Some experience in non-hospice care can be valuable as it lets you hone your clinical skills and helps you determine how comfortable they are with death. Experienced hospice nurses often advance to teaching or supervisory roles.
Contrary to popular belief, while hospice nursing may be emotionally draining, it isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact most hospice nurses describe their jobs as tremendously rewarding as they know they are helping the terminally ill truly make the most of the limited time they have left.