The Role of a Nurse in Hospice Care
A hospice nurse provides specialized nursing care and emotional support at the end of life.
- 1 [Job Description] | Job Description of a Hospice CNA
- 2 [Home Care Nurse] | Role Duties of a Home Care Nurse
- 3 [Hospice LVN] | Hospice LVN Careers
- 4 [Nurses Choose] | Why Do Nurses Choose Hospice Nursing As a Career?
Hospice care allows patients who are terminally ill to die at home rather than a hospital. Although the nurse provides many of the same services a patient would receive in a hospital, the focus of the care is on supporting the patient through the process of approaching death. Hospice registered nurses are included with all other registered nurses in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which notes that RNs had an annual wage of $69,110 as of May 2011. There are no specific educational requirements for hospice nurses except a nursing degree.
Hospice nurses focus entirely on end-of-life care. A hospice nurse provides hands-on nursing care around the clock in the patient s home or a hospice. Hospice nurses manage pain and other symptoms, provide support to patients and families and assist in the process of death with dignity. Each patient and family have a unique perspective relative to end-of-life needs, and the hospice nurse is taught to make a cultural assessment and provide care specific to the individual.
Duties of a Hospice Nurse
The hospice nurse may help the family learn to care for a loved one at home or may provide a respite to the family members who are providing care. In addition to providing direct care, a hospice nurse may order supplies or obtain the necessary equipment to care for the patient at home and ensure medications are available. Hospice nurses perform patient assessments and create a plan of care for all professional caregivers to follow.
In addition to registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and home health aides also perform hospice care nursing functions. The RN is the senior nursing professional on the hospice team and is responsible for providing education, supervision and direction to other nursing staff. Nurse practitioners, who are advanced practice nurses with master s or doctorate degrees, may perform many of the functions of a physician in hospice care. The nurse practitioner may prescribe medications or treatments, supervise or manage medical care and bill for services just as a physician would.
Spiritual Support and Communication
Many patients need spiritual support at the end of life, and a hospice nurse may coordinate with chaplains, ministers, priests or other spiritual advisers to meet the needs of the patient or family. Nurses in hospice are often the communication bridge between patient, family, physicians and other members of the hospice care team. Hospice nurses must understand the end-stage processes of many diseases as well as provide culturally sensitive care and emotional support.
Patients in hospice may experience crisis situations such as pain that is out of control, difficulty breathing, agitation, confusion or bleeding. The role of the nurse in these situations is to provide supportive care and alleviate symptoms through strategies such as providing medications rather than heroic measures aimed at extending life. Whenever possible, the hospice nurse should manage the patient s symptoms at home rather than advise transfer to an inpatient hospice or hospital.
About the Author
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.