Hospice Nurses Agree: “What We Do Matters”

By Denise Brunger, VITAS® Healthcare

Nearly everyone has a story about a favorite nurse. Perhaps you have fond memories of the obstetrics nurse who delivered your first child or the oncology nurse whose sense of humor made chemotherapy less intimidating.

In the field of hospice care, specially trained hospice nurses leave lasting impressions, too, in somewhat different yet equally meaningful ways.

Hospice nurses share one of life’s most profound and difficult experiences. They are intimately involved in the lives of their patients and families, from hospice admission to the moment of death.

May 6–12 is National Nurses Week, a designation that honors the dedication, service, and professionalism of the country’s 4 million nurses. In Brevard County, VITAS® Healthcare understands the unique challenges and joys of the hospice nursing specialty—and the impact that hospice nurses have on their patients and families.

Hospice Nurses Navigate the End-of-Life Journey

The nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, VITAS puts patients and their families at the center of the hospice team, supported by regular visits from specially trained nurses and aides. These professionals provide the bulk of care in the home, guiding families through a patient’s final months, weeks, and days with compassion, calm, and comfort.

Hospice nurses sometimes stay hours past their shift, just to hold someone’s hand and talk. They prepare patients and families for what to expect near the end of life. They advocate for their seriously ill patients. They understand family members’ fears, questions, and emotions.

During our 40th anniversary as a leading hospice provider, VITAS interviewed veteran hospice nurses—some of whom have moved into executive roles—about their experiences on the front lines of hospice care.

“I’m a nurse, and what we do matters,” notes a current VITAS executive about her 1980s-era decision to pursue hospice nursing. “Our patients trust us to do the right thing.”

Another veteran VITAS nurse acknowledged the unique nature of the hospice specialty, focused as it is on supporting patients and families who have chosen to forgo curative treatments and pursue quality of life at the end of life.

“With hospice nursing,” she says, “I can give my patients individualized, one-on-one care that doesn’t exist in most other kinds of nursing. I know that if patients need some extra attention, I can take the time to make sure they have what they need.”

Denise Brunger is patient care administrator for VITAS Healthcare in Brevard County. For more information about end-of-life care options, call 321.339.2893 or visit VITAS.com.