Things a Hospice Nurse Should Know


Since we are born there are special moments in our lives that we enjoy discussing, sharing, and celebrating – birthdays, graduations, new jobs, marriage, babies, and anniversaries are just some of them. Yet, it seems like the one thing we will all go through no matter what path we choose, at the very end of our lives, is the one thing we steer away from discussing or celebrating together. For many, the idea of dying is very scary and hard to face head on. It takes a special type of person to care for people during this fragile and defining moment. If you are considering working hospice travel nurse jobs, there are some things a hospice nurse should know before diving into the career.

Things a Hospice Nurse Should Know: Pros and Cons of the Job

There are pros and cons to any job, but the job of a hospice nurse is very unique. It is important to consider not only what your tasks will be from day to day, but the emotional challenges that come with being a hospice nurse are one of the most important things a hospice nurse should know before heading into that field. Although there can be a lot of sadness associated with death, there can also be much joy found in being there for someone’s final moments.

Pros of Hospice Nurse Jobs

Although the list of benefits to working in hospice is short, they carry a lot of weight. These are the two most important positive things a hospice nurse should know.

  • You’ll Make a Difference. The biggest benefit to working in hospice is that you get to be there for people in their final moments. You make sure they are comfortable, you talk to them about their memories and their fears. You build personal relationships with them that can not only be meaningful for them but can change your life as well. Finally, you’ll make a difference in the patient’s dying days by just being there with them. Sometimes family cannot always be with their loved one 24/7, so you’ll make a difference by simply being around the patient so that they do not feel alone.
  • You’ll Be a Supporter. You also get to be a supporter of the dying person’s family. Your daily tasks as a nurse will be intersected with also making sure that the family is comfortable, educating them on the process of what may happen next and listen to their concerns and thoughts. This keeps you on your toes and gives you some diversity in your profession.

Cons of Hospice Nurse Jobs

The emotional challenges that hospice nurses face are heavy, which is why it takes a strong and passionate person to pursue a job as a hospice nurse.

  • Saying Goodbye. It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to not get attached to your patients when you are caring for them. Since you will deal with death on a daily basis as a hospice nurse, there will be lots of goodbyes. Managing the sadness of losing a person while remaining professional as their caretaker can be extremely challenging. A study found that hospice nurses struggle to talk about their own emotional experiences as a caretaker of the dying and that they feel a lack of support for themselves in coping with goodbye.
  • Ethical Issues. Another study raised some ethical issues that hospice nurses face on the job. For instance, what might be best medically for the patient could go against their ethical code, and other times what a patient wants might break the ethical code of the nurse required to perform the task. Some common issues that came up were things like the use of opioids and decisions surrounding stopping life-prolonging therapies, as well as respect for the patient’s independence on their last days.

things a hospice nurse should know

Talking to Patients About Death and Dying

Out of all the things a hospice nurse should know, talking to patients about death and dying requires the most skill and practice. It is difficult to say things that people don’t want to hear, and it takes skill to say it in a way that stings a little less. A 2016 study found that while providers know it’s important to talk to their patients about death and dying, they struggle with the best way to go about it. There are guidelines available to help you through this process, such as one from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, which breaks down steps to take for talking to patients about death and dying. They include initiating the discussion, making sure the patient understands the diagnosis, establishing what their end-of-life wishes are and developing a treatment plan that everyone is comfortable with. The most important thing is to be empathetic, imagine how you would want to hear the news if you were in their shoes.

Hospice nurses face a lot of stress and a higher risk for nursing burnout. Make sure you understand the best ways to cope with stress and nursing burnout as you move forward in your career. If you have a heart for hospice work, apply to work as a hospice travel nurse today!

Author: Lenay Ruhl

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