Shining From Within: The Difference Between a Good Hospice Nurse and an Amazing Hospice Nurse.

Are you a good hospice nurse? Or, are you an AMAZING Hospice Nurse?

In my eight-years as a Hospice Nurse, I’ve worked with some good hospice nurses, some bad hospice nurses, and then I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with some AMAZING hospice nurses. I’ve learned, and have seen through observations firsthand, what truly makes a good hospice nurse different from an AMAZING hospice nurse. But can this difference be taught? Or does the difference come within? And, is it really important to be Amazing when managing a hospice patient’s end-of-life cares?

Question for You: At the end of your life, would you rather have a good hospice nurse taking care of you? or an AMAZING Hospice Nurse caring for you and supporting your family?

Let’s start out with the question: What is a “Good” Hospice Nurse?

Is it one that follows the expectations from their supervisor? Is it one that meets guidelines, completes and updates Care Plans? Do they meet all of the set-goal end dates in a Care Plan? Is a good hospice nurse one that completes all the necessary EMR documents on-time and within the requirements of the hospice organization? Is a good hospice nurse one that is available during his/her approved scheduled hours? Is a good hospice nurse one that performs his/her job by showing up for scheduled visits and completing the on-call requirements? Is a good hospice nurse one that follows policies and protocols within an organization?

The answer to all of these questions is: YES. These are all ways to be a “Good” Hospice Nurse. Good Hospice Nurses are reliable, complete tasks assigned, and are a good member to have on your team. Good hospice nurses work well under stressful situations, provide quick responses to symptom management issues, and are liked by their managers and supervisors.

And then, there are the AMAZING Hospice Nurses.

AMAZING Hospice Nurses excel at managing the cares for hospice patients and help them die peacefully and comfortably. Amazing Hospice Nurses have all the “Good” Hospice Nurse traits but also do more than just their given, basic job description. Amazing Hospice Nurses “Go Above and Beyond” for their patients and their loved ones, because they believe it is the “right thing to do”. It is within the nurse that the Amazingness comes from, not from anyone telling them or asking them, but from within their heart & soul.

When I reflect on the Amazing Hospice Nurses that I have had the honor of working with, they all seem to have similar characteristics and skills including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Kind
  • Compassionate
  • Confident with End of Life Symptom Management
  • Passionate about Hospice Cares
  • Passionate about the Hospice Philosophy
  • Have Excellent Communication Skills – with their hospice team and with the patients and families
  • Gentle, in touch and personality
  • Advocate for the Patient’s Wishes (both simple and complex)
  • Great Listeners
  • Take the time to get to know their patients
  • Follow-through on promises and words
  • Not afraid to speak up for the patient
  • Think outside of the Box for different options for symptom management
  • Contribute as a positive force to the hospice team
  • A Leader amongst the Hospice Team (different from being a manager or supervisor)
  • Sees patients in a special way by understanding that the patient is loved by many people
  • Sees the patient, not just as a hospice patient, but sees them as someone’s mom, someone’s grandma, someone’s sister, coworker, neighbor, church member, daughter, etc).
  • Respectful (to the patient and their home)
  • Private
  • Appropriate use of words and phrases, knows when to use humor and when not to use humor
  • Understanding
  • Empathetic
  • Insightful
  • Mindful
  • Calm yet full of deep emotion
  • Calming aura
  • Has a caring heart
  • Believes that Hospice is their Calling
  • Team worker
  • Thankful and appreciative
  • Sets-up and Respects Boundaries
  • Practices Self-Care
  • Is safe
  • Understands hospice is patient-centered care

Amazing Hospice Nurses take the time to get to know their hospice patients, which is done through listening to the family speak of their loved one, and listening to the patient speak through verbal and nonverbal cues. I’ve worked with some amazing nurses that have really connected to patients through conversations and stories between the nurse and the patient. Talking and sharing stories between nurses and their patients brings such joy to many, many of our hospice patients – much more than bringing a gift with you to every visit (which many nurses believe this is a way to connect with their patient – I don’t believe this). Compassion comes from service to others, not from tangible gifts.

The Ability to Listen

A KEY skill that Amazing Nurses all have is the ability to LISTEN. They listen to their patient talking. They listen to the patients families. These amazing hospice nurses listen to listen, and they do not listen just to come up with a response. Eye contact, leaning in towards the patient, and nodding/shaking your head all shows that your are actively listening. Amazing nurses know when to put down their phone and their laptop/tablet and just spend time listening to something important the patient may have to say. They can “read” the tone in their patient’s voice as a cue that needs their full attention. But not only do they listen to the patient and families, but they listen to fellow hospice team members and caregiving staff. They listen, gather facts, and work as a team to provide the best cares for the patient, based on the patient’s wishes.

Being Prepared

Amazing Hospice Nurses go into each hospice visit prepared knowing that particular patient’s primary hospice diagnosis, their baselines, their medication lists, and know the name of each hospice team member assigned to their patient. Coordination of Care is important to show teamwork and it shows that the team is working together to provide the patient the best hospice cares possible. Hospice Nurses also know the name of their patient’s dog, as well as other personal details that can be learned through listening during routine hospice visits.

A Story of Triumph

Most of the Amazing Hospice Nurses of today and yesterday have their own special life story of triumph over hardship or of healing over a loss. This past experience shaped the hospice nurse into an empathetic, understanding, compassionate person and caregiver. And, many amazing nurses usually have a special, unique story as to the reason they chose to work as a Hospice Nurse (mostly the story is about how the Hospice Field chose them). What is your story?

In the end, there are many “Good” Hospice Nurses in the world doing good work for hospice patients. And then, there are some pretty AMAZING Hospice Nurses out there providing kindness, excellent, end of life cares, and they are making a difference to those all the lives they touch with their kind heart.

Go find that Amazing Nurse spirit within you. Go forth and make a difference.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

-Maya Angelou, American Poet

For more information about Hospice to share with those that might not be familiar with the hospice benefit, please visit: www.hospice-101.com . This is a simple, easy-to-read website for families and loved ones contemplating hospice services. There is no affiliation with any organization, and no affiliation with any hospice agency.

About the Author

Published by TeriHospiceRN

The author is a dedicated RN with 8-years experience as a Hospice Nurse. She is a Certified Hospice & Palliative Nurse (CHPN) who is passionate about education, and providing compassionate end-of-life cares.

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