About the Job

Staying Positive When Working in Hospice Care

Staying Positive When Working in Hospice Care

In today’s world, there are cornucopia of jobs to choose from.  Whether it be a veterinarian, an underwater welder, or an anesthesiologist, so many jobs exist that one is often going to be a good fit for anyone searching for an occupation.  Although this is the case, various jobs can present difficult and often mentally tasking requirements, while still be rewarding.  These said jobs are not for everyone, but can prove to be some of the most satisfying for those willing to be put to the test.  This can most definitely be the case for those who work for hospice care facilities.  The job itself is demanding, and can often require hours of focus, as the patients needing care may very well be in the advanced stages of severe mental conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

At first glance, some may very ask themselves how a hospice nurse can put themselves through the type of work they must do.  The outside observer may think to themselves, “How sad” or “How could they possibly do this job?”  This being said, it may bring about a natural question:  How is that hospice nurses are able to stay positive?  Is there a certain technique, like a coping method, or a way to de-stress following one of their shifts?  As is the case for a variety of jobs existent today, there is more to a hospice nurse than some may expect.

It is not too hard to understand that to be a nurse, especially a nurse working in hospice care, one must have a series of character traits in order to thrive in any given environment.  There are a multitude of factors that make up a hospice nurse, all of which help to mold the employee into the strong-willed, empathetic individual that they are.  One trait that these hospice nurses have includes their ability to deal with high stress, and the unfortunate event of a death.  Although dreaded by most, death is a part of life and is ever present in hospitals and hospice care facilities. 

As individuals embark on the journey of becoming a nurse, they will often experience very limited run-ins with death, however the event of death can become more frequent once the student makes the leap into the world of healthcare.  This being said, only experience can quite prepare someone for the unfortunate experience of a patient passing away.

Nursing in itself is a job where death is a part of the job, however the experience is significantly more prominent and practically intertwined into the workings of a hospice nurse.  Because of this, nurses in hospice must adapt to a different approach in how they deal with their respective patients.  Some patients may be near death and are able to approach the end more peacefully, whereas other cases may include a patient with severe and ultimately painful symptoms as they approach death. 

This being said, hospice nurses must compensate by managing the patient’s symptoms accordingly, in order to best ease the transition to the end.  Although emotionally difficult, the task itself requires attentiveness and empathy towards the hospice patient.  One site, known as “nurse.org”, discussed this very idea, when the writer of the story, Keith Carlson, a registered nurse, mentioned that, “ Even if the nurse’s own emotions arise, the nurse has to remain thoroughly logical, while simultaneously communicating compassion and understanding towards the patient and their loved ones.” 

On the topic regarding the event of a patient’s death, Carlson stated that, “Watching a patient die is an honor, but it can also be scary. If you’ve never been present at a death, it’s an intense experience, to say the least. Hospice nurses learn to take this process in stride while providing awesome care for patients and families. 

Another vital technique in terms of a hospice nurse staying positive, as mentioned in the nurses.org piece, includes the ability to maintain a positive attitude as a hospice nurse is surrounded with the sometimes unavoidable suffering of their respective patients.  In hospice care homes, it is not uncommon to encounter patients with difficult symptoms to handle, no matter what their diagnosis may be.  This suffering can be the cause of mental or physical setbacks, and can result in an entirely different dynamic between the patient and the nurse in the a hospice care facility.  In addition to these sometimes difficult hurdles, Carlson adds that, “One of the challenges is alleviating others’ spiritual and emotional pain while dealing with your own feelings. Staying positive for your patients and their families is important in hospice, but you also have to stay positive for yourself.”

In most scenarios encountered in hospice care facilities, there is not a guide on how to handle certain situations.  This being said, Carlson in his nurse.org article outlined 10 steps for hospice nurses and their approach towards maintaining an overall positive attitude.  The list included the following:

  • Going to therapy and counseling to develop more emotional awareness
  • If you believe in religion, go to church and meet with your church's leader (priest, rabbi, etc.)
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Make sure to take care of yourself physically and being positive about yourself
  • Do volunteer work
  • Be around supportive and positive people
  • Cheer yourself up with your favorite movies, books, podcasts and videos
  • Be gracious and give thanks
  • Remember, the care you give is rewarding and very appreciated

The future for nurses in hospice care facilities is dependent on a variety of factors.  Starting off, it is imperative that hospice nurses find the balance between work and life, as they are tasked with difficult duties each day at work. Working with understanding while caring for patients can ultimately help this, as it provides the necessary human connection needed at every healthcare facility. 

In addition, much a hospice nurse’s content will derive from a strong foundation of other nurses who have joined in the difficult yet rewarding journey that is a nurse in a hospice facility.  With a community such as this, a hospice nurse can stay positive amidst the difficult encounters they witness each day.