Nurses Are a Pivotal Element in Hospice Care
What would we do without nurses? They are the glue that holds everything together. They are the nurturers, the front line responders, the heart and soul of any healthcare facility. And with May comprised of both National Nurses Day and Skilled Nursing Care Week, there’s no better time to celebrate these professionals. Particularly if you have a loved one in hospice in San Francisco or elsewhere, you know better than anybody how valuable nurses are.
From the first stages of the hospice admissions process right through to the final steps of their patients’ end-of-life journey, the compassionate and skilled impact of hospice nurses can’t be ignored throughout any hospice facility. They play a critical role in the hospice care team and in several of the daily patient care activities. When you understand their role in all this, it helps you form a big-picture look of how hospice brings high levels of holistic care to patients, caregivers, and family members.
Nurses are a pivotal element of the hospice care team, acting as the go-to contact for both the family and the patient. They work alongside other members of the team each day, such as:
- Social workers
- Home health aides
- Speech, physical, and occupational therapists
- Trained volunteers
It’s this collaborative approach that works so well. Nurses often act as the go-between, the middle man if you will, between doctors and families. They interpret the findings, put it all in language that’s easy to understand. They provide the gentle touch, the soft voice, the encouragement that perhaps doctors can’t always provide.
They offer valuable input into patient care, impacting the level of comfort and communication between the rest of the hospice care team, patients, and their families. By providing expert pain management, combined with compassionate listening and counseling skills, hospice nurses promote the highest quality of life for the patient and family.
What Hospice Nurses Do
As part of end of life care, Hospice nurses provide hands-on nursing care ’round the clock, managing pain and other symptoms, and assisting in the process of death with dignity. They must also sometimes make cultural assessments and adjust the administering of care accordingly, as each patient has a unique perspective when it comes to end-of-life needs.
Hospice nurses handle many day-to-day tasks, such as:
- Being an advocate for their patients.
- Providing respite care for family members who just need to take a break.
- Ordering medical supplies required by the patient.
- Prescribing medications or treatments, and supervising or managing medical care (nurse practitioners)
- Creating a plan of care for all caregivers to abide by.
- Providing sensitive care as well as emotional support.
- Providing crisis care that reduces symptoms: comfort maintenance.
- Arranging spiritual support services from priests, chaplains or ministers.
- Performing patient assessments.
- Acting as mediator between the family and patient, as well as the whole hospice care team.
The duties of a hospice nurse usually settle on the softer side — a side that sometimes means simply sitting by the patient’s side and holding their hand. Or, giving a comforting hug to a man who is scared of losing his wife. Make no mistake: they’re highly skilled too, tackling their job with purpose and resolve. They take blood pressure readings, give sponge baths, administer medication, etc. But when all that has been done, they often sit by their patients’ bedsides, rub their arms, share stories and anecdotes from long ago, and give comforting words of reassurance. This is the side of hospice nurses that truly makes them special.
During the course of a day, they certainly wear many different hats, switching interchangeable between roles of medical providers and assistants to friends and confidantes. Being a friend and support system is a big part of being a hospice nurse.
Their job is not to diagnose, treat, cure, or provide medical intervention in an effort to save the life of the patient but to provide comfort maintenance for the highest quality of life that remains for the patient. This freedom allows nurses to bond with their patients and families so they can really get to know them outside the high-stress environment of hospitals. That’s because hospice care is all about maintaining dignity, respect, and the wishes of the patient to ensure all their needs are met.
There are many types of nurses within hospice, such as registered nurses (RNs). These are senior nursing professionals who educate, supervise, and direct other nurses. Then there are nurse practitioners (NPs) who perform many things that a hospice care doctor does, such as prescribing meds, supervising medical care, and billing for services.
Bottom line is, nurses of all kinds are necessary to ensure comfort and dignity for patients and families at the end of life. Let’s celebrate these nurses and congratulate them on a job well done!
Contact Pathways Home, Health and Hospice
Here at Pathways Home, Health and Hospice, we are proud to employ many compassionate and skilled nurses as part of our hospice care teams. Contact us at 888-755-7855 to learn more about what they do and the value they bring to your journey or that of your loved one. Each hospice patient gets access to an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals spearheaded by a registered nurse (RN).