How has hospice nursing affected your friendships?

  1. Hello everyone!

    I am a newby hospice nurse (just one month) and I have never felt so content with a job before :heartbeat . The best part is the other people I work with are the kind of nurses I have been longing to work with (I knew they were out there somewhere!). Of course I have more in common with some moreso than others (just like everywhere) but I am really happy. My problem is in the past month, as I have told friends, family and acquaintences (both old and new) that I am a hospice nurse I have gotten one of the following responses:

    A) the "special person" speech: "oh, it takes a special person to do that" ...and then they shut down or look away. conversation over.

    B) the "isn't that depressing" speech: after I explain that "no" helping a patient to remain comfortable and empowering the family to give loving care is the furthest thing from depressing I get (you guessed it) the identical shut down or look away. conversation over.

    C) the "what made you want to do that" response. Then, before I can explain...I get MYGLO from them and (yup) the conversation is over.

    D) other responses range from "wow, that must really be intense" to "I have always heard wonderful things about hospice". However, these are still followed by MYGLO, look away, conversation over.



    I am begining to think that it's a good thing I like hospice nurses so much...it is the only pool I have to draw from for new friendships! :roll

    Also, my current longtime friends (many of them nurses) and my family really don't ask me about my day anymore. :chuckle

    I didn't mean to become the poster child for mortality when I took this job. But it seems like I am certainly being treated like it. I find the whole thing mildly amusing...but it has already cost me a date!

    Please tell me I am not the only one to get this sort of reception (I changed deodorant brands at about the same time as I took the job so I am hoping that's the real problem).
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  2. 6 Comments

  3. by   clemmm78
    Although I've gotten many of the same reactions, I don't take it in a negative way.

    I use their comments as a great way to educate my friends and family. When they say things like "it must be depressing," I tell them how we have wedding in the palliative care residence, how the philosophy of palliative care is to live every day we are alive, that it's actually a rather cheerful place.

    I tell them that nursing in palliative is so very different, that I feel like I'm making a difference in not only my patients' lives, but that of their friends and family. That in this type of nursing, I feel like I'm really making an impact on their lives.

    I tell them how society, in general, hates to talk about death, but that death not need be frightening - that it's a natural course of life and the more we learn about it, the less frightening it may become.

    As for the comment about "it takes a special person," I had to laugh at something that happened the other day. One of the volunteers is a teacher/social worker at a youth residential establishment. She works with suicidal teens. As we were chatting, I heard those words leave my mouth, "wow, I admire you. That can't be an easy job and it takes special people to do that type of work." As soon as I said the words, I realized that I had said to someone else what is often said to me. I laughed and commented on that, later thinking that many of us think that other jobs do require special people. I think being a teacher in a school takes a special person, I think being a personal aide to a patient with Alzheimer's takes a special person (I know I couldn't do it!). Even in nursing, I so admire the wonderful nurses in pediatric oncology, or in the ER - both fields I feel I'd be horrible in.

    As for people not wanting to be near you (referring to your date loss) and people not wanting to talk about your day, I honestly have never come across that.

    By the way, what is MYGLO?
  4. by   CHPN in So Cal
    It sounds like you have found your avocation. I feel the same way about hospice nursing. Despite feeling frazzled some days and sick of the paperwork on others, I still feel that it is such a privledge to do this work.
    I have had all of the types of conversations you mentioned. When someone is obviously uncomfortable with or just plain not interested in discussing hospice and EOL issues, I just take the hint and talk about something else. Like their job, a good book, new recipe, yoga, dogs, whatever...
    My close friends were all really interested and supportive of my work; the one person who was incredibly uncomfortable was my Mom. After 10 years she has finally realized that I really do love what I do but for a long time she just could not understand how I could be around all those "depressing dying people". Because she could not imagine herself doing this work she couldn't believe it was right for me. It's taken a lot of effort and willingness to listen on both of our parts but our relationship is deeper because of this. So I would think that you can apply this to any relationship. If it truly matters to you that they somehow "get" that hospice part of you.
    Good luck!
  5. by   req_read
    introspectiveRN...

    The "hospice nurse" label cuts both ways. Yes, it can put people off, but then again there are times when hospice nurses enjoy using it... and receiving the awe it inspires.

    That is only natural in a profession (nursing) that is often dominated by other professionals (doctors, administrators etc.) Hospice nursing is one of the few niches in the profession where a nurse can still practice nursing... have some autonomy. Add to that the awe in which they are often held by the public and it is easy to see how a real sense of empowerment would result.

    The initial wall of awe will keep some people out of your life, although if that's all it takes you're probably better off. Helping people break through that initial wall gets easier as time goes on... as your understanding of the field's nuances deepens and broadens.

    For example, it is not difficult to draw someone with a bright and inquisitive mind into existential discussions... which is basically what working with the dying is all about. Given your label (introspectiveRN) I assume that is the kind of person you would be most attracted to anyway.

    One response you did not mention and perhaps have not come across yet is the "know-it-all bore." That is the person who, when you say you are a hospice nurse responds with something like... "Oh yes. I know all about that. My husband's cousin's daughter used to work in hospice, so I know all about that." This response also tends to put the brakes on further discussion.
  6. by   mim-o
    Hey introspective,
    Glad to see you have found your calling. I wondered where you ended up. Have a wonderful christmas and happy new year!!
  7. by   AtlantaRN
    It cost you a date?????? What, like you are the grim reaper or something?????

    My son used to say, "my moms the grim reaper, she carries a black beeper", because for a while it seemed whenever the beeper went off (yrs ago, before everyone had cell phones) someone had died.

    I think alot of people don't know what to say, and laypersons, may not even know what it is. Perhaps it's just a nervous response, like when someone laughs when they don't know what to do....

    I recently started with a home hospice company after 10 yrs of hospital nursing, and it is exciting...exciting to do something different.

    linda
  8. by   AtlantaRN
    MYGLO = my eyes glaze over....

    I had to look it up, i've never heard of it either.

    linda

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