What I Learned from Hospice
It has been some time since I left my position as a Hospice RN Case Manager and yet I am still processing the decision I made to leave the job that became my foundation as a nurse. I will never look at hospice in the same light and if I am being honest with myself; I miss it. However, mentally and emotionally it was time for me to move on. Through hospice, I met some incredible people from my colleagues, to my patients, and their families. All of whom have left their mark on my life in their own way. What have I learned from hospice? Aside from the fact that hospice is not a death sentence. Everyone goes in their own time. Hospice doesn't always mean that a patient will pass on right away, some do and some hang out for a year or three. Everyone is different. Hospice has gained a negative reputation and most who hear about hospice think of the sadness that comes with it. Yes, it is sad and it does get heavy. However, it's also very beautiful and rewarding in its own way. It was a privilege for me to see and experience this side of nursing and have the opportunity to guide and support these people into a comfortable passage to eternity.
So what have a I learned from hospice?
Live a Life You Won't Regret - I remember one of the first few patients I met. She was in her late 90s and if you ask me I wouldn't have guessed she was that matured let alone on hospice. She was an impeccable woman with impeccable taste. Her home was gorgeous and she always had the prettiest flower arrangements on her coffee table. She carried herself with such poise and grace. After I would check her vital signs, she'd have me sit next to her and she would hold my hand for a bit. If I had met my own grandmother, I would imagine she was as grand as this lady was. I remember one of the few things she said during one of my visits, she said "I've lived a good, long life, I have no regrets. I am happy with where I am at and when it is my time I am ready to go. I just want to go comfortably".
Maintain a Positive Outlook - There were times I would wonder how my patients remained so chipper considering their time was limited. They never seized to amaze me that even though their days were numbered they did their best to be the pillar of strength for their family members. A few patients come to mind, they were great men in their day and up until their final days. I am confident that the legacy they left behind will live on. There's a saying that there are far worst things than dying. And after working in hospice, I believe that wholeheartedly. Despite the pain and discomfort that some of my patients experienced as I worked tirelessly to ensure their symptoms were managed they still managed to crack a few jokes, wink an eye, and even pull together enough strength to flirt (haha). I recall removing staples from one of my patients and my preceptor asked him why he was so cheerful & he said "Well there's no use in moping around about the inevitable. Best to make the best of the days I have left with the people I love".
Treat the Dying Just as Well as the Living - It was a reality check for me to encounter people ( facility clinicians &/or family members ) who had no regard for the dying. An LVN once said to me that they did not provide showers to the patient because they're on hospice. I was enraged. So what if they're on hospice? They're entitled to be cleansed and bathed like any other patient who isn't on hospice. Yes, we do offer a home health aide for baths twice a week as a supplemental service to what you already do for the patients within your facility. At the end of the day, this patient is still residing in their facility therefore it is their responsibility to provide respect and uphold the patient's dignity. Another patient of mine was discharged home and she was a sweet little thing. She had a severe non-healing wound that was no longer responsive to antibiotics or treatment. It was devastating to find her soiled in her own urine for what may have been hours. It was so bad that her bedding, her top, and her dressings were soiled in urine. She didn't say a thing and if we hadn't checked her she may have laid there sitting in her urine for much longer. I understand being a caregiver can be difficult. I've seen my mom do it & along with my siblings we helped her oversee my dad's care. It is not an excuse to treat patient differently because their days are numbered. If anything they must be treated with that much more compassion & respect to ensure that these people are able to leave this earth with their dignity intact & whole.
Uniform: Catarina Scrub Top & Zamora Scrub Pants in Coral by Figs
Shoes: NB Nergize v2 (I'm wearing an older version in the photo above)