What Makes a Hospice Nurse Great?
In a Word: Advocate
Alonzo is a VITAS nurse, but he sees himself as an invited guest in the nursing homes where his hospice patients live, and he conducts himself accordingly. He is happy to be there, he is diplomatic, he does everything he can to help. When he leaves, they urge Alonzo to hurry back.
“If a VITAS patient becomes lethargic or is in a lot of pain, the nursing home LPN has 32 patients,” he points out. “She can’t stop to take care of one. But if I put the word out, the nursing home is amazed: I have an aide, a social worker, a chaplain—whatever I need. And continuous care? VITAS is one of the few hospices with our own continuous care nurses—someone at the bedside 24/7. It’s very challenging, but it helps a nursing home so much.”
To say nothing of what it offers the patient. Alonzo says it’s not unusual to be asked by the family of another nursing home resident, “How do I get that for my mom?”
“So we tell them about hospice, what I call our Hospice 101 discussion,” he says. “We’ve grown so much because of our service, our reliability and our loving care. Aides and nurses are VITAS’ best marketers.”
“As a patient’s nurse, you are their advocate,” he explains. “And, especially today, advocating for dying people is important. A lot of people have very set ideas in their heads. We’re constantly teaching doctors and nursing homes, as well as family members, about hospice.
“We do a good job,” Alonzo acknowledges. “They invite VITAS back because they know they can count on us.”