Career path for hospice nurse?

  1. Hello peeps! I would dearly appreciate some advice for this currently unhappy nurse. A little background... graduated in December 2005 and began my career as a trauma ICU nurse. I have discovered that I have a talent for and am honored to work with families of the dying. While other nurses on my unit are far more technically skilled than I, they tend to run the other way when patients are being withdrawn from care or the family is given the bad news. I, on the other hand, make myself available and spend time with the families. This is where my heart is. The families of the dying request me for their loved ones and I always feel honored. I think I always knew that comforting the dying was where I was supposed to be. When My mom died, my family would not hear of talk of her dying while I knew she needed to be allowed to talk about it and advocated for her. My time in ICU has not by any means been a waste and it has been a confirmation that I should be a hospice nurse. I am leaving ICU to work on a general medicine floor for a year to get more familiar with the basic skills that we don't get to practice much in the more complex ICU setting. I have to work in the hospital this last year to fulfill my bonus contract. After that, then what? Any advice?
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    About wonderbee

    Joined: Sep '03; Posts: 2,355; Likes: 622
    Nurse, of course
    Specialty: critical care; community health; psych


  3. by   ShayRN
    I worked step down tele for 6 years, 2 of them as a supervisor. I put weight on and was always unhappy. Then one day, we had a patient that was dying on our unit. The nurse caring for the patient couldn't handle it, so I told her I would take over his care. I spent time with the family, moved the roomate out of the room and made sure he was clean as he passed. I knew in that instant that is what I wanted to do. It took 9 monthes and many, many phone calls to HR, but in July I started as a Hospice nurse. I haven't looked back. I love that I get to sit and watch TV with my patients, play cards with them, or just laugh with them and their familys. I have never, in my nursing career, have been so humbled. It seems like every little thing I do is appreciated and I will promise you, if your not a spiritual person now, you will be within a month. GO FOR IT!
  4. by   nurseangel47
    Hi, RNKittyKat. I have been a hospice nurse in the not too distant past. I can tell you right now hands down that if I had the decision to do over again, I'd have never, ever left the genre. It is a decision that still haunts me to this very day. The only area of nursing where I just felt like I fit. I had a lot of emotional attachment to all my patients and their family members and burned out after a year with hospice cases. Looking back on the experience now, however, I'd of stepped back, been less emotionally attached to them all, and tried somehow to put up an emotional wall for MY protection. That is the key to doing good hospice work as a nurse or to maintaining that professional distance it takes to still be good at what you do but to protect yourself from burn out.
    I agree with above post regarding spiritual awakening. Never before in my life have I felt closer to God than when I was a hospice nurse. It made me re-examine my entire life, literally. It was not unpleasant. One of the most amazing years of my life.
    I would re-enter hospice work if it were available where I live. The hospice I worked with was not somewhere I would be employable again, due to politics at the time and my inability to keep my mouth shut and go with the flow when times are rocky. Sad, but it's the truth as I see it and I constantly kick myself for making that mistake in an area where I felt true passion in nursing.
    Go for it and know that it is right for you. Lucky you! I wish I could start over with a clean slate insofar as hospice nursing goes. I wish you the best in this very noble and needy area of nursing.
  5. by   weetziebat
    I've been in hospice nursing now for less than six months, but I love it. In 35 years of nursing there have been very few areas that I could say that about. My family feel sorry for me, working in such a 'depressing' area. They couldn't be more wrong. I love caring for my patients, helping the families - and receive far more from them than I could ever give.

    And, yes, your spirituality just blossoms working with the dying. Not something I'd have imagined happening, but guess you can't spend all day talking about death and not have it affect your personal beliefs.

    Not to mention how wonderful my co-workers are. Maybe its something about hospice, but there is no gossip, backbiting or nastiness.

    I applaud you going into med/surg. to get the background that will help you. I found it difficult to get a job in hospice despite years of experience, but don't know if that is common or not.

    The only advice I can offer is perhaps getting in touch with a hospice in your area and letting them know of your interest and your plans. Then ask them what may make you more employable in that field. They may have some tips.

    I'm glad for you that you've found your niche so early in your career, and the best of luck to you.
    Last edit by weetziebat on Dec 9, '06
  6. by   Wren
    I agree with the advice of getting in touch with a hospice now. You may find that you are valuable to them right now instead of waiting a year. A large hospice in my area right now is looking for nurses and are willing to train.

    Most hospices are pretty low tech and you will probably find that you the skills right now that you need. If you have identified your niche...don't wait!! Good luck
    Last edit by Wren on Dec 12, '06
  7. by   wonderbee
    So happy that all of you have responded so enthusiastically. That's not something that happens too often in nursing. I feel a sense of peace about it. It appears that the door may be closing on my current plans for the year on med/surg. Without going into detail, it's out of my hands. I am currently on a short term medical leave of absence for knee issues and, due to administrative bumps in the road, I may have to resign by year's end which is pretty darned soon. In all honesty, I'm not exactly heart broken over it but no one likes the prospect of unemployment. Once again, thank you. I'm researching agencies and facilities in the Pittsburgh area.