It is no surprise that nurses play an important role in the health service experience. Whether in a hospital, a primary care facility, or a nursing home, nurses are often key caregivers and can significantly influence the quality of care given. Their behaviors, demeanors, and actions have been shown to greatly affect patients, families, and outcomes.
As it relates to hospice and palliative care, however, the nurse’s role takes on a different form of significance. Caring for patients in the end of life journey can bring a specific set of understandable difficulties. This kind of caregiving can challenge a person emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It can also provide a beautiful and unique outlook on life.
However, it is not just the patients that are in focus; families are also walking the journey. Since the presence of family is a vital component during the end of life, we believe it so important that our hospice and palliative care nurses care for both our patients and their families. Families may not be prepared for the pain and stress of watching the decline and death of a loved one. Our nurses are therefore uniquely positioned, and tasked, to bring both medical and emotional care. Throughout our history of providing hospice services, we have seen firsthand the benefits this care can bring.
“Since the presence of family is a vital component during the end of life, we believe it so important that our hospice and palliative care nurses care for both our patients and their families.”
As a study in the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care shows, end of life nurses need to have both clinical competency and the ability to remain attentive to a family’s needs and concerns throughout the process. It is helpful that the nurses can recognize the stages of death and, with that knowledge, prepare the family as the time draws near.
End of life nurses bring experienced and gentle guidance for the family. They allow families to be present with their loved one, taking care of details possibly burdensome for the family. Nurses are often a family’s primary liaison and therefore the biggest source of knowledge as patients transition through the stages of death. They are available for the families and are quick to answer any questions or concerns.
“Seeing the nurses care deeply for their loved ones, while also taking the time to care for them, proved to be an incredibly helpful support to families before, during, and after a death.”
Nurses also bring emotional care and provide a reassuring attentiveness, which is shown to be extremely helpful to families. From ensuring families are present during death to allowing ample space to grieve after, end of life nurses are gentle, compassionate, and intentional. Seeing the nurses care deeply for their loved ones, while also taking the time to care for them, proved to be an incredibly helpful support to families before, during, and after a death.
End of life nurses have a unique opportunity to truly help those in a vulnerable and painful season. Showing the right balance of care and support can truly make a difference; at VNA, we are proud and privileged to work with an outstanding nursing staff. They are dedicated, compassionate, and intentional towards to our patients and their families. They bring the kind of care that makes our healthcare services truly unique and beneficial. We are thankful.
— If you are interested in inviting us to partner with you in your loved one’s end of life journey, please contact Carol Emmerich, RN, our Director of Hospice Care.
If you are interested in joining our amazing nursing team, visit our careers page.