Essential Skills for a Hospice Nurse

Posted in Career Blog

As a hospice nurse, it will be your responsibility to provide end-of-life care for your patients and make them feel as comfortable as possible. As such, there are several specialized skills you will need to learn and develop in order to be successful.

Communication Skills

Hospice is a form of healthcare that is provided to patients who are nearing the end of their lives, whether they are suffering from an illness or advanced age. Your primary role will be to keep the patient as well as his or her family members educated and as comfortable as possible during this period. You will need excellent communication skills so that you can understand how your patient is feeling, describe the various stages of the dying process to the patient and his or her family, and communicate with the patient’s physician regarding medications, treatments and other things that may be used to provide comfort.

Emotional Strength

Working as a hospice nurse can be trying, especially since your primary responsibility is providing comfort to your patients as they die. Your patients and their loved ones will likely experience a wide range of emotions that include anger, sadness, depression, and frustration. In fact, you may experience many of these emotions yourself. You will need to remain compassionate at all times and understand that, at times, these emotions may be directed toward you. It takes an enormous amount of emotional strength to cope with this, and you will need to be strong for the patient and his or her family in order to help them to the best of your ability.

Advanced Nursing Skills

You will need a degree in nursing in order to be a hospice nurse, but you will also need to take courses to help you develop the skills necessary for treating recurring symptoms in patients with terminal illnesses and helping to restore their overall sense of well-being. To do this, you may be charged with the task of helping your patients perform basic tasks such as bathing, dressing, using the restroom and more. You will be responsible for standard nursing duties such as administering medications, changing dressings and taking vital signs, but you will also be responsible for providing emotional support and being an advocate for the patient and his or her loved ones.

Cultural and Religious Awareness

Cultural and religious awareness is not something that is typically taught in nursing school, so you will need to take it upon yourself to get the knowledge about how different groups handle the dying process. As an example, if one of your patients is of the Roman Catholic faith, you may be asked to contact a priest so that the patient can receive his or her last rites as this is a very important part of this religion. Conversely, there are some cultures that have processes for handling or preserving the body once the patient has passed. You will need to learn these in order to ensure that you adhere to the wishes of the patient.

Hospice nursing can be a difficult career path, but it can also be very rewarding since you are helping patients feel empowered and comfortable during the most vulnerable times in their lives. The skills listed here will allow you to provide the best care possible, both emotionally and physically.

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