There are similarities to med-surg. Something that surprised me was how sick these patients are. We have the occasional patient on a vent, severe wounds, patients with intractable seizures. You use all your med-surg skills and learn a lot of new things too. We do end of life care and respite, but we also do a lot of acute symptom management with the goal for many patients being to return home if at all possible. There is also a lot of emotional turmoil involved because some families, or even the patient, haven't accepted that this is the last phase of the patient's life. It's heartbreaking when a patient is crying and saying that they don't want to die. But then we also witness beautiful deaths, family reconciliations and forgiveness, outpourings of love. This is a very "real" place to work. People open up to you in a different way. Death brings out the best and worst in families. Something that is really special about hospice, though, is that there is a team there to help and support them. We have on-site social work, chaplains, volunteers who can just "be" with the patient if needed. We also have all the clinical support like you'd have at a hospital-- respiratory, dietician, etc. At the hospital I always felt like I wasn't able to spend any time with my patients. I do feel like I have more time to spend with patients now and, if I don't, I don't have to just leave them on their own, there is a lot more support. Almost every day I feel like I've made a real difference in someone's life. That's pretty awesome.
Ask about staffing, the type of orientation they offer, the level of patient acuity and what types of patients you'd be caring for, if there are CNAs and volunteers working with you. I'd ask for a tour of the facility and try to soak in the "vibe." Are the nurses running around like crazy or all sitting at the computers typing frantically trying to get their documentation done or do you see staff really interacting with the patients. Almost everywhere I've ever interviewed, hospice or not, they had a nurse working there show me around and I could ask "what's it really like" type questions.