VITAS Takes the Time to Train Its Hospice Nurses
As a newly hired nurse with VITAS, you have enviable clinical skills and a heart for serving patients and families. Whether you recently graduated with your nursing degree or offer years of experience, you seek to provide compassionate care.
It is expected that we are all constantly growing and learning.
“Orientation is individualized to meet the needs of each new employee,” explains VITAS National Patient Care Administrator Kellie Newman, BSN, RN, CHPN. “Experienced hospice clinicians may complete their initial orientation in two weeks, while those new to the field of nursing and/or to hospice may need to expand on this. All orientations are followed up with ongoing education, shadowing, and mentoring for 30 days.”
This process allows you to ease into your workload and get acquainted with patients. It enables you to develop rapport with your interdisciplinary team. It also gives you a runway to learn processes and technologies to foster your success.
“We have a variety of settings in which nurses can learn how to care for hospice patients: homes, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and inpatient units. Each provides a unique perspective on end-of-life care,” says Newman.
Taking a Self-Assessment
To help us customize your orientation, every new nurse completes a self-assessment. For each of the nursing skills commonly used with hospice patients, you rate yourself as:
- Accomplished and able to teach the skill
- Able to demonstrate acceptable proficiency with the skill
- Not able to perform the skill independently and need further development
This enables your leader to create a customized plan specifically for you.
Shadowing Team Members
Using your skills as part of the hospice interdisciplinary team means it is helpful to understand the other roles in the team. This collaboration helps you develop an individualized plan of care for each patient.
Each new nurse shadows their nurse mentor, a social worker, and a chaplain to gain insight into how team members work together.
Ramping Up Your Involvement
As you accompany your nurse mentor, RNs will initially observe interactions with patients and families. Over the course of the orientation, you will progressively complete more of your assessment and associated documentation. This continues until you feel comfortable managing the entire visit.
To complement your mentor’s guidance, you will also view videos, which are consistent across the organization.
“A successful, well-balanced orientation incorporates all learning styles—live interaction with mentors, videos, and review of standards and procedures—with plenty of opportunity for feedback,” says Newman.
Your manager will review documentation and spend time in the field with you to ensure you have incorporated this information into practice.
Gaining Ongoing Support and Education
At the end of your orientation, you should feel confident in providing care to patients and families, yet also know you have supportive clinical leadership—and your interdisciplinary team —to offer any additional guidance.
Your education continues throughout your tenure. “It is expected that we are all constantly growing and learning,” says Newman.
For example, VITAS registered nurses and nurse team managers are encouraged to earn continuing education credits through our Pathways to Excellence certificate program; these credits also come with an opportunity for financial incentives.
“These certifications help clinicians optimize their skills and enhance critical thinking,” says Johanna Pedre, vice president of workforce development and training for VITAS. “Because they build leadership skills, the programs help prepare our professionals for growth opportunities here at VITAS.”
Preparing for a Rewarding Career
Hospice care draws nurses and clinicians with a special mix of skills.
“They must be critical thinkers,” says Newman. “Unlike other environments where a nurse has others coming behind them, in hospice, our nurses are the case managers responsible for coordinating all of the patient’s care. They must feel comfortable assessing independently. Then, they must discern when to pull in other members of the team when their specific skills and expertise would benefit the patient or caregivers.”
Learn more: How RNs Can Grow Their Careers at VITAS >
The rewards of hospice nursing are many. As both new and experienced nurses embark on this path, the orientation is only the beginning. A fulfilling career that has a meaningful impact on patients and families awaits.