What Makes a Hospice Nurse Great?
In a Word: Compassionate
Elizabeth is a VITAS nurse working 4 p.m. to 8 a.m., responding to Telecare® calls from patients or families in the middle of the night. Sometimes all they need is a call back to reassure them or let them voice their fears. But most callers want a skilled, calm, compassionate hospice nurse to walk in the front door and know what to do. That’s when Elizabeth shines.
“Sometimes I go to explain things. We administer morphine for pain control, and families are worried about overdosing their loved one. Sometimes I go to offer support. They’re worrying that the patient hasn’t eaten in two days, sleeps all the time, isn’t responding. It’s the same symptoms the patient had at noon, but it’s more frightening at midnight.
“Sometimes I go to pronounce a death. The caller says the patient is declining, and I see immediately that she is actively dying. So we sit with her, and we watch the most peaceful transition, especially if she was in pain or struggling to breathe. Death is a beautiful thing; it’s a rest from this world’s turmoil.
“But then I turn to the family, because even though they knew she was going to die, it’s always a shock. I guide them in making some decisions, call the funeral home, stay with them as the body is removed from the home, which can be traumatizing.
“But I love this work!” Elizabeth says. “ I’ve been a nurse for years, and my experience with VITAS is the first time I’ve loved it. The response I get from my patients and families is unlike anything in medicine. Death is one of the most difficult things people can endure, and I am able to guide them.”