As you explore your career options, you know you want to choose a path that allows you to spend your days changing people’s lives. Nursing is the first career that comes to mind. You can’t think of a better job than caring for patients and supporting their families through a difficult time.
But when it comes to picking a focus area for your nursing career, it’s not so simple. You’ve thought about becoming a hospice nurse, but you’re worried it won’t offer the rewarding career you’re looking for. After all, won’t it feel hopeless to care for patients who are nearing the end of their lives?
Believe it or not, hospice nursing is one of the most rewarding careers out there. These nurses develop strong relationships with patients and walk with their families through some of life’s most difficult moments. But don’t just take our word for it. We asked seasoned hospice nurses to help explain why this nursing specialty is more fulfilling than you may realize.
6 Reasons why hospice nursing is more fulfilling than you may think
1. Hospice nurses increase their patients’ quality of life
Many people think hospice nursing is just about sitting with a patient during their dying days, but this job has much more depth and meaning than that. Hospice nurses seek to help patients live life to its fullest during their remaining days. Rather than restrict what patients can do, hospice nurses help them continue spending quality time with loved ones and doing the activities they enjoy.
“We have the ultimate respect for the lives of our patients,” says Jillian Faulkner, RN BSN, CHPN and assistant director of clinical services at Unity Hospice. “We attempt to allow as much independence as can safely be allowed and want our patients to live each and every day that they have left as well, as comfortably and as peacefully as possible,” Faulkner says.
2. Hospice nurses develop strong bonds with their patients
It’s a common myth that hospice nurses are only in the picture during the last weeks or days of a patient’s life.
“It’s not about how fast a patient can pass,” says America Jimenez, LPN, hospice nurse and mentor at Unity Hospice. “It’s about the steady decline they continue to show. I have worked with some patients for longer than six months to a year or two.”
Working long-term with the same patients allows you to develop a bond you may not have if you were working with patients on a shorter timetable in a hospital or clinic setting. As a hospice nurse, you’ll be one of the most important people in your patients’ lives as they near their last days.
3. Hospice nurses support patients’ families
In many ways, hospice nursing is about caring for families just as much as patients.
“The death of a loved one can be an intimidating and frightening time for families,” Faulkner says.
Faulkner believes families who receive hospice services are better prepared and experience less stress at the time of their loved one’s death. “Nurses who work in hospice are given a unique opportunity to assist our patients and their families to navigate through this time to hopefully provide all involved the closure, comfort and peace they need.”
4. Hospice nurses provide essential education
In addition to supporting families through the emotionally trying time of a loved one’s death, they also provide education and resources so that family members are prepared to help care for and spend time with their loved one. “We empower them to take care of their loved ones at home,” Jimenez says.
A relative who isn’t medically trained may be afraid to be left alone with their loved one, but hospice nurses help change that. “We teach them how to manage those symptoms when nursing staff is not present, so that they can have the confidence that they are taking care of their loved ones as well as they possibly can,” Jimenez says.
5. Hospice nurses help provide peaceful, dignified deaths
Many people would say they want to spend their final days resting peacefully in their own home rather than an unfamiliar space like a clinic or nursing home. And of course, no one wants to feel weak or like a burden to their family. Hospice nurses make this type of peaceful, dignified death a possibility.
“We want our patients to end their life with dignity and pride while in the comfort of their own homes,” Jimenez says. Hospice nurses add to their patients’ quality of life by relieving discomfort and allowing them to spend their remaining days in the home they know and love rather than a hospital environment. These simple acts of caring make a meaningful impact on patients and their families.
6. Hospice nurses truly enjoy their calling
“Hospice isn’t a job—it’s a calling,” Faulkner says. Hospice nurses fully embrace that calling and are able to find enjoyment in their work, despite the difficult and emotionally trying times they may experience. Hospice nursing may not be easy, but it is worthwhile.
“We enjoy being with our patients very much, and they enjoy our company too,” Jimenez says. “It’s such a special time in someone’s life ... it’s a sacred time. For patients and families to allow you to spend those times with them is a huge honor.”
Hospice nursing is its own reward
Caring for the loved ones of others during the twilight of their lives can obviously be an emotionally challenging task. But don’t mistake that challenge as something that’s completely sad and draining—as you can see there’s a lot of potential for a hospice nursing career to be emotionally fulfilling. If you think you’re ready to become a hospice nurse and provide a peaceful end-of-life setting for patients and their families, you’ll want to focus on your first step—becoming a registered nurse.
Learn more about the process of being a registered nurse by reading our article, “How to Become a Registered Nurse: Your Step-by-Step Guide.”