Considering a Career as a Hospice Nurse

undefinedAs I sit here contemplating the reasons why others should choose a career as a hospice nurse, I remember back to the past 17 years. During this time, I’ve dedicated my life to being a hospice nurse. As cliché as it sounds, it’s not what I do — it’s who I am. I cannot imagine doing anything else.

The trust that is given to me by the patients and their loved ones is humbling. Knowing that I am going to be there when my patient takes his last breath is sobering. Knowing that I have the responsibility of ensuring that he dies with dignity can be staggering. Knowing that I’m going to be there to hug his wife, daughter, grandchildren or any other loved one that will be performing a vigil by his bed is why I continue to love this profession.

Hospice can be daunting. The hours are long. The paperwork, as with any healthcare career, is mind-boggling. What makes me continue as a hospice nurse? There are many, many reasons but here is a prime example of why:

Early in my career as a hospice nurse we received a call from the mother of a dying 7 year old boy. I was resistant to say the least. Pediatrics was not my thing. However, I became Levi’s nurse for the very short two days he was in hospice care.

I, along with other hospice staff and his entire family, never left his side. As his breathing became more labored, he looked up at me with the most angelic expression and said “Nurse D, will you make sure that someone looks after my mom when I’m gone?”

Needless to say, tears filled my eyes and I promised him that we would help his mom as long as she needed us and we wouldn’t leave her. He grabbed my hand and gave it a little squeeze. He died later that night in the arms of his beautiful mother, with his siblings at his side.

A few days later we went to his funeral. We were asked to sit up front in a row of chairs that faced all the visitors. The pastor leading the service asked us to stand and stated that the mother wanted to recognize the “Crossroads staff as the angels that were there holding her hand during the most difficult day in her lifetime.“

Little did she know that she, along with that precious son of hers, impacted my life much more than I impacted her life. With all of that I can truly say that I haven’t worked a day in 17 years. This isn’t work– it’s a mission, it’s a privilege and it’s a calling.

Being a hospice nurse keeps me grounded. It teaches me not to “sweat the small stuff” and helps me to slow down and treasure the sunsets, the rain on a Sunday morning and the laughter of the children in the school yard that backs up to my fence.

If you want a career that reminds you of why you chose to become a nurse, this is it. To make a difference that really matters. That is why I am a hospice nurse and why I hope to continue this profession as long as I am physically and emotionally able.

Why don’t you join me in this wonderful, honorable and ever-changing field of hospice nursing? Isn’t making a difference the primary reason we went into nursing? I can assure you that as a nurse at Crossroads, you will make a difference.

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