The hospice nurse: What’s in your toolkit?

By | 2022-05-05T12:30:49-04:00 September 15th, 2014|3 Comments

Like each and every specialty in nursing, hospice nurses are one of a kind. It takes a special skillset to work as a hospice nurse, taking care of patients and their families who are at the end of life.

These are some tools that belong in the hospice nurse toolkit. Tell us what we missed!

1. A calming presence

Terminal illness comes fraught with anxieties, fears and difficult emotions, both for the patient and the people who love them. The hospice nurse is the steadfast mountain amidst the turmoil. You are able to comfort families by your assuredness, your knowledge and your ability to just be.

2. Compassion

Compassion is integral to all of nursing, but in hospice, compassion is especially poignant. As a hospice nurse cares for someone at the end of life, compassion helps a patient feel comforted and affirms that his or her life has great value.

3. An open mind

The array with which individuals respond to death and dying is wide. Your personal views may not match a patient’s view. Hospice nurses know that approaching patients without judgment is an important aspect of good end of life care.

4. Pain control expertise

Patients nearing end of life unfortunately can suffer from a great deal of pain. Hospice nurses know exactly what to do for patients who are hurting or just terribly uncomfortable. They teach family members and caregivers to do the same.

5. Family dynamics expertise

There’s nothing like terminal illness to bring out some difficult feelings and communications (or lack thereof) between patients and their loved ones. The nurse plays social worker, mediator and listener through it all.

6. Healthy grieving process

Sometimes the hospice nurse will get particularly close to a patient or family and feel a deep loss when they die. Other times, the cumulative toll of being around such loss day in and day out can leave its mark. Having good tools in place for personal grieving helps keep the hospice nurse emotionally well.

7. A reliable GPS (or old school map)

For homecare hospice nurses, you never know where you might end up! A GPS can be your best friend. But sometimes a regular old map works just as well. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you do.

8. Acute patient assessment ability

One of the beautiful things about hospice care is the lack of technical equipment. No ventilators, no invasive monitoring. Much of what you need to know about the patient comes from sharp assessment skills.

9. Case management skills

The hospice nurse is the go-between. The patient advocate. The coordinator. The communicator. The one who, above all, makes sure that every need is met, that every team member is on the same page, that every physician order is in place.

Your turn

Hospice nurses, what’s in your toolkit?


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  1. Avatar
    Rose May 31, 2018 at 12:11 am - Reply

    This was very helpful, thank you.
    I have often thought I might be a great hospice nurse as i have great compassion for people. I retired from Mother Baby Nursing working at at a hospital just 6 months ago… praying about this.

  2. Avatar
    Chris November 29, 2018 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    New Hospice nurse. I am new to Hospice and really like what I feel is a fairly patient centered. Very different than other fields of nursing that I have worked in. Thanks for the tips.

  3. Avatar
    Erica October 18, 2019 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    I am a hospice nurse with a master’s in counseling. I find that very helpful when working with families to address what they need to say to each other before the loved one passes and how to approach coping when that occurs. Being a widowed remarried mom helps me too as I have been through it and know what so many are enduring. This is a ministry to me. Tender and precious.

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