How do you respond when you tell people you are a hospice nurse?

Specialties Hospice


When I mention I'm a hospice nurse, people usually reply with a wince and shudder and remark about how hard that is and how they could never do it.

I never quite know how to respond in these situations. I usually mumble something about how I've always had an interest in hospice nursing or something generic.

I'm curious how others respond to the inquiries?

Sharry RN

16 Posts

Specializes in Hospice, Psyc, post surg.

I usually give a gentle smile & say something like this, "For me it is a wonderful priviledge to be with folks at the end of their life & to do everything I can to make them comfortable." Often times it opens a door to minister to their pain around someone in their life who died or their own fear of death.


349 Posts

Specializes in Hospice, Palliative Care, Gero, dementia.

I often get the "that must be hard, I could never do it," but don't necessarily see a wince or a shudder, more often appreciation and/or admiration."

I usually say how I love it, how it feels like such a prividedge and humbling to be with people at a most vulnerable and intimate time.

If they are a nurse or a nursing student, I'll often add something about how that's one of the wonderful things about nursing -- there are so many different things one can do and so many different kinds of people to fill those niches -- I doubt I'd ever be a good ED nurse, and my exposure to ICU made it clear to me that that was not the kind of nursing that I enjoy -- and I'm so grateful that there are others for whom it's a perfect fit.


39 Posts

Specializes in Hospice.

I get a lot of appreciation from the community. Cashiers will tell me how much hospice helped their grandmother, etc. If I do happen to see a bit of a cringe, I take the opportunity to educate about what hospice has evolved into.


55 Posts

Interesting topic - because it can just stop a conversation.

I have been working on an "elevator" speech - an introduction to what I do rather than what I am.

It starts out "I am Registered Nurse with specialized training in evaluating and caring for the terminally ill patient and assisting their families"

Would love other feedback.


200 Posts

Specializes in CCU, OR.

When people ask me what kind of nurse I am, I tell them that I'm an OR nurse. That gets similar responses, ranging from,"OOOO, I couldn't possibly do that" to "You're a special person to do that" to a description of some relative's last surgery and best of all,"Wow, how can you do that for a living?"

I respond with a simple explanation, "Everyone has something that they are good at. This is what I do." Funniest thing is that most people who ask those kind of questions are folks with bona fide skills that I have no idea how to do; hair dressers, plumbers, etc. To the hair dressers I've always said, "You know, I haven't the faintest idea how to do hair, but you do. I do what I do well and that's where I belong- the OR".

It always surprises them when I tell them that something that they do every day, without really thinking about it, is indeed a SKILL and talent that others might not have. And that makes them stop and think about their value in life, instead of just "oohing" and "aahing" about my skills.

That seems to go over pretty well. "This is what I'm best at, so I do it".

I've been thinking about becoming a hospice nurse, because I do believe in as peaceful and dignified death as a person can have. Hospice nurses saw my mom out to her end. I had to teach my dad to trust his hospice nurses, 24/7, because he'd call me from Massachusetts to Virginia, saying things like, "Listen the the way your mom's breathing, it's not right." I told him to call the hospice at once, and he said, "What at 2 am?" I said, "Yes, that's what they are there for, and Dad, I can't do anything for your or mom from Va."

He finally got the message. After Hurricaine Gloria hit in 1985, which we endured not only in Virginia but then again in Boston when we flew up to see my mom(I'd just gotten discharged from the hospital with a Sept 12th baby), my dad complained that he couldn't get through to Boston Edison to get the power back on; mom's water bed was cold and stuck in position. Again I said, "Dad, call the Hospice" and he shook his head, but called. We had power in less than two hours, while the rest of town was still dark.

I think Hospice nurses are very special people, and I thank all of you for what you do.


154 Posts

Specializes in Hospice, Palliative Care, OB/GYN, Peds,.

Usually people will praise me for doing what I do and tell me that it takes a special person to do the job that I do.. I simply tell them that it is a calling that I am honored to be a part of. I tell other nurses that this is what I went to school for, to care for the whole person, body, mind and spirit and it is fullfilling. I think that most people have a difficult time dealing with death or even talking about death so they become uncomfortable thinking about the event. We will all die sometime but not everone wants to think about it, it is really not morbid and can be beautiful and peaceful. Be blessed and proud of what you do for all of your patients. I'm sure you are a blessing to them.:redpinkhe


4 Posts

Specializes in ICU, Hospice, Diabetes, Adult-Gerontology.

I'm brand new to hospice, been in orientation for 6 weeks with a stellar organization. I love my job!!! Everyone I work with is the epitome of compassion and caring. I went on an admission visit with another nurse and the patient's adult granddaughter commented "Not many people could do your job.... most people don't have a heart of stone to deal with death like you do." We were both left speechless!!!:eek:


61 Posts

Without the amazing Hospice nurses who took such wonderful care of my dad last year - I don't know where I would be today.

Ashera, LPN

179 Posts

My answer - used frequently:

"For me, to be "allowed" to share this most intimate part of a person's life - his death - is a gift and a blessing. (and I firmly, unconditionally believe - a person chooses when to let go and who he/she allows to be there at that time.) For a pt to want to share this part of his life - shows an enormous trust in who I am and how comfortable they feel. I always hope, that by my being available - as a nurse, or simply another human being - I've been able to share something of my strength or knowledge or expertise, when they might need it. I think that's what we are all here for. Yes, it can be sad...but it isn't depressing (for me). Not everyone can do this - there are different kinds of nursing I can't do - but this area has always been something I feel comfortable around and I'm glad I've been able to make a small difference in someone's life - their ending."

Variations of above often used.

And from that point - if the conversation continues - you can tailor your reply to helping them learn something they were unsure about.

Not a one-size-fits-all response.

But definitely find something you are comfortable with in responding with. We are always in a position to teach others - cause ya just don't have any idea where it goes from that moment! The old Ripple effect I think!


32 Posts

Specializes in hospice, pediatrics.

I usually say, "Yes, it can be a hard job at times, but very rewarding." That pretty much covers it!



140 Posts

Wow, monkeymind... "heart of stone"? Just the opposite!

I tell people it's rewarding to be a part of helping families keep loved ones at home and comfortable when hospitalization won't help and a cure is not possible. And that it's a privilege to witness the great love of families during the trying time of terminal illness.

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