How do you know if Hospice Nursing is for you?

  1. I've been a med-surg nurse since I graduated almost a decade ago now. Recently I have felt drawn to hospice nursing. I am tired of the fast-paced med-surg life. I care for in-patient hospice patients on a regular basis, but I don't feel I am able to give more than basic nursing care with the time restraints my current patient load imposes. I would like to spend more time getting to know my hospice patients and their families and making sure they are comfortable and well-cared for to the end. I want to make sure this is really what I want to do before I switch specialities. How do I know if hospice nursing is the right fit for me? What are the pros/cons?
  2. 7 Comments

  3. by   Red Kryptonite
    Quote from Serenyd
    I would like to spend more time getting to know my hospice patients and their families and making sure they are comfortable and well-cared for to the end.
    This is a very good indicator. You're concerned about comfort, quality of life, and want to spend more time and actually have a relationship.

    Frankly, it's a privilege to help patients and families through this time. If you can view it that way, if you can embrace the idea of a "good death" and help people experience that, then hospice may be where you belong. It's not always lovely, in fact some cases can be harrowing, but being there and doing what you can to make it better is always of value.

    Full disclosure: I'm a hospice CNA and not a nurse yet, but working on that as of January 2015. Unless I were to pursue midwifery, I don't see myself working anywhere but hospice.
  4. by   Pondmud
    Well, it's certainly a plus that you would like to get to know your patients and their families better. I am afraid that there are certain nurses attracted to the "slower" pace of hospice so that they can pass their meds, give some sleepy-time PRN's, and relax.... It's not that there is less to do, what you're doing is simply different.

    I love getting to know the families and really getting together a plan that works for them. I like doing the patient teaching, to let them take control over parts of their lives that they thought they've lost, even if it's just for a little more time.

    In hospice, you get comfortable with treating symptoms based on what your eyes, ears and hands tell you - lots of lab tests and vitals aren't part of comfort care. I think it's an older-fashioned style of medicine, and it's beautiful.

    The advice I'd give is this: Find a way to always keep your heart open, but make sure you've got good boundaries, too. Expect for hospice to challenge your beliefs about life, death, and how we spend our time on earth. Expect to get really comfortable discussing a topic that most of society finds terrible uncomfortable.

    good luck!
  5. by   Serenyd
    Thanks for the insightful and thoughtful responses!
  6. by   TeeKay12
    I'm sort of in your same situation. I've been a med/surg nurse for the last few years. And I'm about done with it. I love my patients, love my co-workers, but it's not what I want to do. I have the privilege of living in a large city with many, many large hospitals. I was able to find a position posted for a hospice nurse. I wasn't positive it's what I wanted, but I knew it sounded better than what I am doing. I've had 2 interviews and a shadow and now know, more than ever, it's exactly what I want to do!

    So - my suggestion; find a hospice near you. Talk to the director of nursing and see if you can shadow a nurse, to see if you'd really like to do it. Modern home hospice is only about an hour visit twice a week, so you do spend more time than you will with your med/surg patients, but you're not sitting with them for hours.
  7. by   Libby1987
    I work with Hospice nurses. It's not fast paced but you're not cruising either.

    We have a hospice nurse that just came over to us (home health) after 10ish years in hospice. She told me there's a shelf life for nurses in hospice of about 7 yrs. I haven't confirmed that but they have their own kind of stress. I know I've had to refer some patients with dysfunctional families and that can be very disheartening. I've also had to refer some that waited til the 11th hour. However while they are doing it, their heart is in it and they find it rewarding.

    There is of course call work which I've heard doesn't pay like acute care call. Inquire into all of the expectations.
  8. by   Red Kryptonite
    Quote from Libby1987
    She told me there's a shelf life for nurses in hospice of about 7 yrs.
    Interesting. The hospice agency where I work has a substantial number of nurses who've been there between 10 and 25 years, so that's not something I ever thought about.

    However, within the agency there are a lot of different roles, including inpatient, RNCM, admissions counselor, and triage/after hours, so maybe because our nurses can get a change of scenery when they need it, they last longer.
  9. by   Gooselady
    She told me there's a shelf life for nurses in hospice of about 7 yrs.
    That certainly applies to me, insofar as it was me working in medical oncology and having comfort care patients every shift I worked. I hit a kind of wall about a year before I resigned and I hate to be trite but when I heard about 'compassion fatigue' I felt a rush of recognition for whatever the HECK was going on with me.

    And I worked with nurses who'd been doing this exact same job for twenty something years, seventeen years . . . and going strong. I felt inadequate in comparison to be honest. I don't think 'we' have as much control over what we can tolerate as we might wish? My shelf life was six and a half years, anyway. I had many other reasons to 'move on' as well but I can't deny that I ran out of whatever it takes to do that kind of work. While I did it, though, I loved it, felt like I had truly meaningful work as a nurse and it was worth every moment it lasted. No regrets, except regretting that I wasn't SuperNurse like a couple others