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Top Five Myths About Hospice Nursing

Hospice nursing can be intense work, but it can also be immensely rewarding. Despite this, many nurses have hesitations about transitioning to hospice care because of myths surrounding the role of hospice nurses and hospice in general. We at the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) are aware of these myths and want to help dispel them so that nurses who would otherwise be great hospice nurses aren’t afraid to pursue a fulfilling career in hospice care. Here are some of the top myths we hear from prospective hospice nurses.

Myth: Patients can only live six months or less to be on hospice service.

To qualify for hospice, it is true that patients have to be diagnosed with a life-limiting condition with a prognosis of six months or less. However, many patients can be in hospice longer than six months, some even for years. Hospice provides resources to improve the patient’s end-of-life journey. These resources can be very beneficial for the patient and their loved ones during this time.

Myth: Hospice is only about providing comfort care.

In addition to providing comfort care to the patient, hospice teams have many members to assist such as aides, chaplains, social workers and a medical director to help caregivers and their family during their journey. The hospice nurse is part of this team that helps the patient live with the highest quality of care for as long as possible, but their role is not the only piece of the puzzle.

Myth: If a patient is in hospice, it means they are giving up.

Depending when they come on to hospice service and where they are in their journey, patients can find meaningful ways to live their best at the end of life. Patients are done with curative and often uncomfortable treatments to enjoy the remainder of their life. They are surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice nurses play a big part in helping their patients and families during a meaningful transition.

Myth: Hospice nurses are often overwhelmed.

Nurses manage their own schedules and set up their own work weeks. Each nurse manages 12 to 15 patients. The hospice nurse has an interdisciplinary team that helps to support the plan of care for each patient. Nurses are not rushed and can give individual attention to their patients and patients’ families. Hospice focuses on care that is high touch and low technology. Nurses teach, mentor, and encourage family members to become competent caregivers. Most of this care is done Monday through Friday during daytime hours. The hospice nursing team shares on-call responsibilities.

Myth: Nurses not experienced in hospice are unqualified.

Most nurses fear that they do not have the skills to provide hospice care. In fact, seasoned nurses have been preparing for hospice care their whole careers as they get to exercise compassion they already have as nurses in a brand new context where it’s sorely needed. Hospice teams also provide extensive training in a supportive environment for nurses new to the field.

We’ve found that most hospice nurses never go back to “floor nursing” as they find new meaning in hospice care as a career path. If you’re interested in applying for a position at VNA, visit to explore our job openings and see what might be a good fit for you.

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