“Endings matter, not just for the person but, perhaps even more, for the ones left behind.” -Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

During National Nurses Week (May 6-12), Heart to Heart Hospice recognizes the vital role our nurses play in our healthcare team and in patients’ lives. Hospice nurses tend to more than physical needs, and holistically help patients achieve quality of life as they face their mortality.

Hospice care is a unique form of healthcare, and hospice nurses offer dignity and support for the patient and their whole family. Hospice nurses often interact with patients and their loved ones on a personal level in their homes (or nursing facility), providing extensive training, as well as care during a patient’s tender final months of life.

“Because hospice care is focused on treating the whole patient — emotionally, physically, and spiritually — allows for creative and personalized case management when trying to solve issues and provide top-notch care,” said Erin, a Heart to Heart Hospice nurse.

Hospice nurses have a variety of duties, including: assess and monitor symptoms, like breathing, pain levels, and skin condition; educate caregivers; obtain needed orders for medication and equipment; help during medical crises; and assist with psychosocial effects of disease and dying (mental, emotional, social, and spiritual). Beyond clinical support, nurses also provide a listening ear to patients and caregivers, sit bedside during active dying, and offer support for bereaved families. 

The Sween family, whose mother was on hospice for five weeks, shared this about their nurse: “Throughout this challenging time, we were supported at every turn by their [hospice] team. Michelle, the nurse in charge of my mother’s case, was consistently comforting and exceedingly informative, fielding every question at all hours of the day with compassion, good will, and down-to-earth insights.”

Self-Care Tips for Nurses

Nursing requires a great deal of empathy and compassion, as well as extensive medical knowledge. The physical demands of nursing, changing technology, varying schedules, and staffing shortages can lead to burnout for nursing professionals who continually show up fully for their patients. 

Nurses can nurture their own health through self-care practices such as:

  • Cultivating healthy lifestyle habits like proper hydration, healthy eating, exercise, and quality sleep.
  • Caring for mental and emotional health through a good support system (on and off the job), enjoyable hobbies, and a way to separate life from work, especially in the hospice field that involves death and grief.
  • Accepting practical support like online grocery ordering with delivery or pickup, cleaning services, and help from friends and family on child and pet care.
  • On-the-job self care practices like meditation, prayer, or stress-reduction techniques during or after a stressful shift.

“Self-care reduces stress, replenishes a nurse’s capacity to provide compassion and empathy, and helps improve quality of care,” as laid out in this article by Purdue Global. From being exposed to disease and dying, plus a range of interpersonal relationships, hospice nurses need to prioritize their own health to stave off anxiety, depression, and burnout.

Thank a Hospice Nurse

Hospice nurses care for patients in one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. Whether you are currently on hospice or previously had excellent care, take advantage of National Nurses Week to show appreciation to a hospice nurse today.

Based on the popular Five Love Languages, utilize one of these creative ways to say “thank you” to a hospice nurse:

Words of Affirmation: Write a heartfelt, personal thank you letter with specific ways they provided outstanding care.

Acts of Service: Offer a service-related gift such as a car wash or house cleaning.

Physical Touch: Beyond a thank-you hug, give a gift card for a massage, spa day, or pampering bath goodies. 

Gifts: Give something meaningful that shows you were thinking of them personally, whether it’s related to a favorite hobby, restaurant, home item, etc.

Quality Time: If it’s not possible to have a coffee date or dinner with your hospice nurse, offer a gift that provides quality time for the nurse and their loved ones, such as a restaurant gift card, tickets to an event, etc.

Finally, this National Nurses Week, Heart to Heart Hospice thanks our incredible nurses who give selflessly to our patients on a daily basis!