Hospice: Knowledge and Wisdom Worth Dying For

Leading up to May 2007, I had worked in a variety of nursing areas. I have worked in long-term care facilities, Peds, PICU, NICU, PASU, ICF/MR, SDC, OPS, and Endo. Wow, there are a lot of abbreviations in the world of medicine. I made the decision to step out of management and into the world of Hospice.


  • Specializes in Endo, Outpt Surgery, Hospice, LTC, MH,.

Hospice: A New Direction

Now I wasn't just stepping back into a direct care role on "the floor" of Med/Surg. No, I took a role as a field nurse in an area considered taboo by even the best nurses.

Most nurses cringe when hearing that name with the usual remark, "I could never work there. It takes a special person to work in that area."

Yes, I accepted the job and began working the first week of May 2007 in none other than Hospice. I chose Hospice because it really was nothing like what I had worked in the past. I thought it would get me out of the hospital walls and the headache of management.

I had worked in community health nursing in the past an enjoyed the autonomy it allowed. The time for private thought and traveling farther than the bathroom or the cafeteria was oddly appealing to me. It even seemed weird to say but I thought after working in management I owed it back to the direct care nurse to put my hands to the grindstone, a philosophy I appreciated as a floor nurse and held myself to as the coordinator. I looked forward to giving of myself to my patients. What I have gotten from my patients, however, has left me often feeling like the receiver instead of the giver.

Hospice: A Never-Ending Experience

In a nutshell, the Hospice philosophy is to provide the patient with the best quality of life for as long as the patient is alive. That sentence doesn't give Hospice justice, but this article isn't about what we as nurses can do for the patient. This article is about what the nurse takes away from the experience.

Call me the eternal optimist, but in a world where gray clouds loom and joy gets robbed with every heartbeat, I believe God provides a silver lining. In the realm of a dying person, there are always treasures to uncover. I never imagined how a job taking care of others in their greatest time of need could give back so much. Sure, every day I see a patient and I am reminded that my problems are not life ending. Every moment helping them when they deal with pain or breathing difficulty I thank God my problems are life changing, not life-threatening. Every time a patient dies I know I am blessed to be alive.

Patients Share The Greatest Wisdom

I am amazed when out of the crackling voice of a dying patient comes words of clarity, truth, and strength. When we are not treating, comforting, and answering questions; when our mouths are shut and our ears are open, it is the patient who usually has the greatest wisdom to share.

In providing the best quality of life to a dying person, it is that person who has spoken so much into my life. I find myself driving away from the home speechless at the boldness and profound words that pour out of them. In eight months I am honored that my life has been blessed by my patients. I honor the wisdom, knowledge, and strength of a man, woman, or child who faces the greatest unknown and has made peace with their life. They get it. They understand it. If only we, the non-terminally ill nurse, social worker, therapist, and the doctor could learn to live with that passion and boldness. If only we could learn to live like we were dying. It is that knowledge and wisdom when we listen, that is worth dying for.

T.J. Bristle RN BSN CLNC

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24 Posts

:w00t:I love Hospice. I have been working in Hospice for almost 4 years. You do learn a lot from patients. They can teach us so much. You come to love and respect people when they are at the end of life. It is an honor to be there for them. I think of their dying as a rebirth into the next life. Just as they came into this world for the reason God had for them being here. We all must be born into the next life that He has for us. You see so much in Hospice. Spiritual things. The patients teach you about death and dying. They are amazing. It is called death and dying for us, but in reality, it is all about rebirth from this world to the next one. You will see a patient as I always say "with one foot in that other world, and one here, and it is just a step over". Most with hospice step over peacefully. Some don't and they are the ones who have not made the peace that they needed. God bless the patients! God bless the Hospice teams who work so hard to make the last months and days as peaceful, painless and full of life as possible


24 Posts



1 Post

Specializes in Long Term Care, Hospice, Home Care. Has 18 years experience.

Thank you for the beautiful article. I too have gotten back into Hospice after many years of long term care management and regional management. Each day I too am amazed at the joy and wisdom of my patients. I get much more back than I could ever give. Wow some of the stories we share at our nursing meetings. Whenever I question is this where I am supposed to be? one of my patients says or does something that convinces me that I am.


21 Posts

thank you for putting the words to 'why hospice' so well! families always ask 'how can you do this', and the best answer i have found is simply-IT IS A PRIVILEGE. the demands of the job are certainly less than the rewards of being there for the family and their loved one.its also a plus to gain that forever insignt on 'what really matters' to me.of course it helps alot when the journey is accompanied by faith and hope...and the experience of standing on 'holy ground'.

after 30 years of nursing, this too,is my BEST job ever-makes the paycheck an added 'bonus'.:up:


2 Articles; 983 Posts

Specializes in ICU, SDU, OR, RR, Ortho, Hospice RN.

Written so eloquently.

Thank you so much for this stimulating and warming article.

Hospice patients indeed give back way more than we can ever take away with us.

We are taught lessons every day from each one.

Grouchy or not they are amazingly strong individuals with one focus in mind.

Die with dignity in comfort, peace and die the way they choose too.

Thanks again :)


18 Posts

Very touching to get so much from patients. I think alot of us get lost in the 'tasks' of doing our job. I, for one, sometimes wonder what my purpose in nursing is. I often feel as if I don't 'help'. I often feel 'sucked dry'. Pretty much, tired.

I would like very much to feel useful as a nurse, not just a multi-tasker.

Most of the time, it is a struggle to just get through the shift, Let alone feel any satisfaction.


16 Posts

Specializes in Hospice. Has 7 years experience.

congratulations! You get it. You now live with a higher understanding of "life" than most people. You exist on a whole different level. Tread lightly.


13 Posts

Specializes in Micu,Hospice. Has 22 years experience.

There is a saying....Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life!

As a Hospice nurse, I have found peace in my life. Never have I felt so rewarded as I am now. This is a gift to work in such a profound environment with incredible people who will being seeing God!


26 Posts

Specializes in Mental Health. Has 19 years experience.

The more I hear from hopice workers, the more I think that I want to be one!!! Thank you a million times over. Your article was beautiful and inspiring.:specs:


2 Posts

I am glad to hear of your enthusiastic view on working within the hospice area.

Because personality makes the world of difference in anything we do, I am glad that you are most sincere and comfortable around the terminally ill. i am new to this website and this is the 3rd email i am writing where i mentioned about my own desire to learn more about hospice.

thanks, again


5 Posts

I've been in HOSPICE only 2 months of my nursing career and I realized that as much as people complain about how hard it is to live in this world if only they knew how much harder it is to die. This job has changed my life so much in such a small amount of time even as I write this I shake because of all the emotions it brings out of me, the families the wonderful, gentle, patients. I pray every day for the continued strength to stay in this field because I too find it so rewarding. Just last week I had my first case where I had too actually sit with the patient and the family(usually I COME IN FOR CHECK IN AND VITALS ETC..) for almost 12 hours, before I left the daughters both hugged me and thanked me saying that they never thought that their Dad would sleep so peacefully when it came to this stage of his death, they stated that they knew he wasn't in any pain because I was there doing all I could to bring him comfort, it took every ounce of control I had at that moment not to break. Some people say ,"oh it gets easier the more patients you lose", I pray that I never feel like that. GOD BLESS US ALL.:heartbeat