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.
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.
Hospice nurses, what’s in your toolkit?