Hospice nurses care for patients who are near the end of their life and generally have a short time (a few days to a few months) to live.
They monitor vital signs, organize and dispense patient medications, dress wounds, ensure the patient is always in a comfortable state, help patients develop healthy eating habits and rest schedules, educate family members and friends as to how they can best support their friend/family member and help patients and families cope with the near future by providing emotional support, education and professional assistance to them.
These nurses may work with patients who are suffering from:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Terminal illnesses
And a host of other severe and life threatening injuries/illnesses.
Hospice nurses may work in a number of different health care settings however they are often present in a patient’s home (where the patient can enjoy their last few moments) or in a dedicated health care center where patients can receive additional care.
Hospice nurses have one of the most important positions available within the nursing spectrum as they are often not only the medical care giver, but also a primary part of a patient’s emotional support.
These nurses must have a strong sense of compassion and understanding of life and death and be able to help their patients develop a positive and spiritual outlook on the life they have left.
This can be extremely difficult for some nurses, especially in cases where the patient is younger than the nurse who is caring for them such as a child, teen or young adult.
While most fields of nursing focus on improving the lives and health of patients this field focuses on helping patients deal with and accept the inevitable future.
What separates hospice nurses from other nursing professions is the fact that these health care professionals are focused on helping patients make the most of their last days, rather than trying to rehabilitate the patient as there are no treatment plans, medications or procedures available to cure the patient’s life threatening ailment.
It’s the hospice nurses responsibility to make their last days as pleasant and meaningful as possible while also providing them with the best medical care available.
While it may appear to be a difficult job to cope with in the nursing spectrum it can also be a wonderful career when observed from a positive perspective.
By being an integral part of a patients last moments a hospice nurse has the ability to improve the patients outlook on life/death and create meaning for their situation.
They can give the patient hope and happiness, support and care, and most importantly a reason to make their remaining time on earth as fulfilling as possible.
Becoming a hospice nurse
Those who are interested in becoming a hospice nurse must first earn either their ASN or BSN degree from an accredited college.
While it may be possible to get a job working as a hospice nurse with an ASN degree many health care organizations that are interested in hiring a hospice nurse look for RN’s with a BSN degree as most nursing positions beyond an entry-level position require nurses to have a BSN degree.
After obtaining an ASN/BSN degree registered nurses should spend around 2 years working in a hospice related care setting and pass the hospice nurse certification exam in order to have the best opportunity for entering the field and working as a hospice nurse.