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What Makes a Hospice Nurse Great?

Thorough Hospice Nurse

In a Word: Thorough

Martha won’t be hurried. Let others fret about managed care and volume. Let others bark “Stat!” at their subordinates. This VITAS home care nurse treats every hospice patient like the only patient she has. “I won’t rush in and rush out,” she says flatly. “I can’t feel good about what I do if I rush.”

Martha’s manager calls this approach to patient care “bringing out the fine china”—as opposed to the paper-plate approach so typical today.

“Everything she does is with the greatest thought,” her team manager says. “Her interventions are right on. Her assessments amaze me. She comes from the old school. She’s proactive when it comes to her patients. She’s vocal, compassionate and stubborn—no matter what, her patients’ symptoms will be controlled.”

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Martha’s been a nurse since the ‘60s, worked in long term care, been a director of nursing, run an Alzheimer’s unit. Good old-fashioned nursing skills are the foundation of her clinical care. “We were taught to assess people from the top of their head to the tips of their toes, and I still do that today,” she says. “Skin color and texture? Swelling? Discoloration in the whites of the eyes? Feel the neck. Listen to the lungs, the heartbeat, bowel sounds . . .”

Despite 45 years of on-the-job training, Martha relies on her whole team, from physician to hospice aide. Because aides see the patient daily and will see the first signs of trouble, she cultivates the good ones. She demands daily reports and insists on a phone call whenever her aides see a change in a patient.

“Martha’s strict,” admits one of her favorite aides. “But I’m very proud to work with her. She does a beautiful job.”

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What Makes a Hospice Nurse Great?

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