3 Tips for Making it as a Hospice Nurse

The joy of hospice is being there - to be present in anguishing moments.

Lori Wilkinson, RN, joined the Absolute Hospice team in January 2015 as a Case Manager following a long career as an ER nurse. The ER taught Lori how to think fast, master efficiency, and care for patients with a levelheaded focus. Read her insightful tips for hospice nurses below.

As a hospice nurse, the emotional demands are in full effect, all of the time. On a constant basis, we encounter families who aren’t prepared to say good-bye to their loved ones. And so, our jobs transcend beyond our clinical duties to relying on the power of human interaction. The hospice experience is deeply human. I find that it’s about taking the time to be present. They need us to be here. The joy of hospice is in being there – to be present in anguishing moments.

Being a nurse in any field is hard work. The amount of responsibility that flows within the profession we’ve selected can be daunting. It’s a complete delight to take part in someone else’s journey, however, if you’re not careful, you can rush, loose patience in difficult-to-deal-with situations, and loose your grip. So, I’ve highlighted three tips to help hospice nurses. These insightful tidbits have helped anchor my own self when I felt like I could easily be swept away.

1. Listen Empathetically

Before I share tips on how to listen empathically, I must tell you why.

  • Listening is the foundation for trust.
  • Listening helps you understand, and it helps your patient feel validated. 
  • Listening helps you become a better communicator.

So in other words, don’t be the know-it-all nurse who comes in, communicates the plan-of-care, and goes on to the next patient. So, here’s some pointers for being a better listener.

  • Zip it. Simple enough, right?
  • Never interrupt. Let the speaker finish completely.
  • Offer your complete attention. A note about this tip. I have to have my phone on me at all times, but when someone is speaking, attentiveness wins over distraction.

2. Educate.

So many people are introduced to hospice in the wrong way. As a hospice nurse, it’s my job to educate on the facts and demystify myths.  At Absolute Hospice, we talk to our families about what they can expect from our team, what they can expect from the experience, and what they can expect from their family member who is in care. Educating is crucial. It’s the step that calms everyone down the most. You know why? Because fear tends to run unrestricted through our thoughts when we have absolutely no clue on what to expect. And fear brings its unwelcomed friend, doubt -  and before you know it, the situation is worse. So be compassionately truthful and educate.

3. Restore.

There is a reason why every single airline attendant tells you to put the safety mask on yourself first before helping anyone around you. It’s not because they’re encouraging you to be selfish, it’s so you can be effective. And if you want to sustain effectiveness and to help people with your gift of nursing, you have to take care of yourself. The word 'restore' means to bring back, return, repair or renovate. We give so much of ourselves. Not only on the job but to our personal lives. It can’t be overstated – restoring is your way to replenish the vibrancy you’ve once had and ensures longevity.

Restoring yourself is as simple as going to sleep on time, visiting the spa, connecting with a friend, going for a walk, or just doing something that you enjoy, just because! You know yourself - what makes you excited about life and replenishes your tank? Find it and do it. Often.