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Hospice Sheds Light on the Vital Role of Nurses in Hospice Care

Home Health InformationThere’s no doubt that nurses are the lifeblood of our healthcare system. They provide that extra touch, that extra level of personal care and compassion that no one else can give. They are on the front line of care in nursing homes, hospitals, medical offices and more, often offering personalized attention not just to the patient but the family as well. This is no different in hospice care. Nurses are an invaluable component of the hospice care team, acting as the point of contact for the patient and family. They work in conjunction with other members of the team, such as:

  • Physicians
  • Home health aides
  • Social workers
  • Counselors
  • Trained volunteers
  • Speech, physical, and occupational therapists

By offering valuable input into patient care, nurses can help affect level of comfort and communication between patients, their families, and the rest of the hospice care team. The focus of hospice care today encompasses the entire spectrum of physical, psycho-social, emotional and spiritual care to terminally ill patients and their families. Nurses in particular can boost the quality of life by protecting patients from unnecessary interventions and providing comprehensive care at home when possible rather than in a clinical setting, says Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow.

Important Roles of Nurses

Nurses wear many different hats, vacillating between the role of medical provider and assistant to that of friend and confidante. They venture far from strictly providing medical care and often into the realm of friend and support system. Let’s go into detail on the specific roles they play:

Nursing care: First and foremost, the job of a nurse is to tend to the patient’s healthcare and comfort needs. They can administer medication, adjust IVs, bathe and dress the patient, make sure they’re comfortable, and ensure total pain management. Other tasks, according to The Houston Chronicle, may include:

  • Ordering supplies
  • Obtaining the necessary equipment to care for the patient at home
  • Ensuring the right medications are available
  • Patient assessments
  • Creation of a plan of care for all professional caregivers

Their job is not to diagnose, cure, treat or otherwise provide medical intervention in an effort to save the patient. Rather, the goal of nursing in end of life care is to provide comfort maintenance for the highest quality of life remaining. This is freeing in some ways, as it allows the nurse to bond with her patient and family and truly get to know their experience without the high-stress environment of hospitals and medical offices. Hospice care puts a big emphasis on dignity, respect, and the wishes of the patient, with the goal of ensuring all of their needs, as well as those of loved ones, are met, says The Guardian.

Within the realm of nursing care for hospice, there are several tiers. Registered nurses (RNs) are senior nursing professionals on the hospice team and provide education, supervision and direction to other nurses. Nurse practitioners perform many of the functions that a hospice care physician does, such as prescribing medications or treatments, supervising and managing medical care, and billing for services.

Collaboration: Nurses collaborate with other members of the team during weekly or bi-weekly meetings. The nurse’s input to this collaborative part of the process is integral to overall patient care.

Listening and communication skills: Anyone who has ever dealt with a caring and compassionate nurse knows they can act just as much as confidantes as they can medical professionals. While social workers and counselors are indeed part of the hospice care team, the nurse is often a daily partner in patient care, developing strong bonds and keeping the lines of communication open.

Spiritual Support and Communication: Hospice nurses can coordinate with spiritual advisers within the team as well, from chaplains to ministers to priests. In terms of communication, nurses bridge the gap between patient, family, and other members of the hospice care team.

Crisis care: When pain suddenly spirals out of control, the patient begins to have difficulty breathing, or confusion and agitation reach a critical level, nurses can step in with a cool head and administer crisis care.

According to the National Institutes of Health, hospice care nurses play several roles simultaneously of each other, such as:

  • Pain and symptom management
  • Culturally sensitive practices
  • Assisting patients and their families through the death and dying process
  • Ethical decision making
  • Patient advocacy

Not all nurses will thrive in hospice care. Those who do are special indeed.

Contact Pathways Home, Health and Hospice

We certainly have special nurses here at Pathways Home, Health and Hospice. Contact us at 888-755-7855 to learn more about our hospice care team and services so your loved one gets competent, well-rounded care at end of life. Each hospice patient has an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals led by a registered nurse (RN) available to them.