Passion Meets Purpose for Hospice Home Care Nurses
Home care nurses at VITAS Healthcare make a profound difference in the lives of hospice patients. They possess a very special balance of clinical expertise, commitment, and—perhaps most important—compassion.
“Compassion to me means that you are aware of the other person's needs above your own,” says Carrie Carmack, RN, a VITAS home care nurse in St. Louis. “I've learned to just be still and listen. Listen to what that person's saying with their body, not just with their words. Just listening to them and being able to help them, to me, is compassion.”
Quarterback of the VITAS Care Team
At VITAS, the RN is the leader of the interdisciplinary care team. The RN’s responsibility is to identify the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of the hospice patient and their loved ones and ensure they get the support they need.
Our home care nurses are empowered to make care decisions at the bedside and adjust their schedules based on patient needs. They visit patients wherever they call home, including apartments, homes, and nursing homes.
“My purpose is to be there for patients and their families as much as they need me to be,” Carrie says. “Sometimes it's once a week, sometimes it's three times a week, sometimes it's every day. I can make medication changes, or I can reposition them, or whatever they need me to do at that time. I let them decide when it's time for me to go.”
VITAS nurses must be licensed by the state in which they work and have a minimum of two years of experience in hospice, home health, or community health in the last five years.
A More Personal Approach
Before coming to VITAS, Carrie worked in long-term care for 25 years. She enjoys the more personal approach that comes with hospice nursing.
VITAS has been really good to me. There are a ton of possibilities here.
“Before, I had 40 or 50 patients,” she says. “Now, I might have 20 patients, but I get to see them one-on-one. I get to focus more on them and their needs.”
Carrie says, in her previous role, she didn’t fully understand hospice care. Now, she works to educate patients, families, and care providers about the benefits.
“They don't always understand what we can do for that patient in the long term,” Carrie says. “They're not thinking of helping the patients' end of life. They're trying to fix them. Sometimes we can't fix them, but we can at least try to make them more comfortable and help them feel dignified.”
Making a Difference with a Can-Do Attitude
A willingness to be flexible, proactive, and creative to find solutions is part of the can-do attitude that successful VITAS nurses bring to work with them each and every day.
“It's important to exceed expectations,” Carrie says. “The patient doesn't deserve mediocre work. You need to give them exactly what they need, and if you can't get them what they need, you need to find somebody else on the team who can help you find the solution to their problem.”
It’s about being committed to the work. “Commitment means being there every day and not giving up. You can't give up on your patients, you can't give up on what's going on with them. I do whatever I can to stay healthy so that I can be there for those patients, because not only do my patients need me, but my coworkers need me.”
A Team Atmosphere
That commitment to the team is something that Carrie noticed as soon as she arrived at VITAS.
“People help each other out every day. If a patient has an emergency and you have to go deal with that emergency, you might not get to your other patients. Everybody jumps in and it gets done.”
The same is true for the doctors, health aides, and other team members. “The doctors are so nice about educating us. If we don't know the answer, they're happy to explain it. They're always teaching you.
“And the aides know everything. It just amazes me how attention-detailed they are to the patients and what they're going through.”
Possibilities for Growth
With our people-first culture, VITAS provides robust opportunities for professional growth for RNs, including our new nurse certificate program, Pathways to Excellence. This three-year certification program enables nurses to build expertise while earning financial incentives and CE credits.
“VITAS has been really good to me,” Carrie says. “There are a ton of possibilities here, and as you get more experience and you learn more from everybody, there’s no end to where you can go. It's just phenomenal how much I have learned since I've come to VITAS.”