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Hospice Nurse

Understanding the Role of a Hospice Nurse

From the early stages of the hospice admissions process until the final steps of a patient’s end-of-life journey, the skilled and compassionate impact of hospice nurses can be witnessed throughout our hospice organization.

Hospice nurses ensure the highest quality of care for patients

Hospice nurses are one of the cornerstone members of the hospice care team. By virtue of their frequent interaction with patients, family caregivers, and patient families — coupled with their years of specialized training — nurses are instrumental in the care team’s ability to track a patient’s progression and provide quality care.

The care needs of patients with terminal illnesses can change rapidly and dietary plans, prescribed medications, and care strategies must be ready to adapt in response. Nurses play a first-hand role in ensuring their patients are as pain-free and symptom-free as possible.

Through frequent visits, recording of vitals, talks with patients and caregivers, and by personally witnessing the progression of a patient’s symptoms, hospice nurses are at the forefront of communicating a patient’s changing care needs to the rest of the team. The hospice nurse submits recommendations and the latest information surrounding the patient’s condition at the interdisciplinary hospice team meetings.

Held at least once every 15 days, these interdisciplinary meetings have every member of a patient’s care team in attendance. During these meetings, each member of a patient’s care team shares any new information concerning the patient’s progression, discusses how to further improve the patient’s quality of life and comfort, and ensures that the care plan is in direct accord with the patient’s end-of-life care wishes.

Hospice nurses ensure their patients do not die alone

One of the guiding tenets of hospice is the belief that no one should die alone. In alignment with this belief is the practice of ensuring that at least one member of a patient’s care team is present during the patient’s final hours. Hospice nurses, typically accompanied by the patient’s chaplain, are the care team members most commonly present with patients during their death. During these final hours, hospice nurses provide a loving, reassuring presence while providing comforting care that ensures the patient is as free from pain and discomfort as possible.

Admission Nurse

Admission nurses are some of the first members of a hospice organization with whom patients come into contact. In this position, admission nurses guide patients and families through the hospice assessment and admissions processes and play a pivotal role in the educational process for patients, families, and caregivers alike.

When terminally ill individuals are considering hospice care, an admissions nurse will work closely with that patient’s physician to understand the patient’s needs and determine whether that patient is eligible for hospice care. If that patient is eligible to receive hospice care, the admissions nurse provides compassionate education concerning the holistic hospice care philosophy, as well as the nature of the care they can expect to receive regarding their specific terminal illness.

Admissions nurses also work closely with the patient’s care team in formulating a care plan for the patient. With the admission nurse being one of the first medical professionals from that hospice organization that has met with that patient, their insight is invaluable. Following a patient’s admission, admissions nurses may also play a role in the order of any specialty care equipment that a patient might require as well as all pain relief and other symptom-controlling medications.

Case Managers

The role of a case manager is one of the most direct, hands-on nursing roles in a hospice organization. Hospice case managers oversee the direction and coordination of a patient’s care — and the care provided for their caregivers and family — throughout their time in hospice. Working closely with the rest of the hospice care team, case managers decide how care resources are allocated and formulate the plan of care for each patient. They also determine what level and what types of counseling, education, and care the patient’s family caregiver and family members will need before, during, and after the patient’s death.

Visit Nurses

Visit nurses supplement the care provided by a patient’s hospice case manager. In part, their work consists of following up on routine care duties that are laid out in the patient plan of care, such as providing periodic wound care, administering medications, and ensuring proper documentation of all provided care.

Triage Nurses

When patients or caregivers experience an at-home emergency or need to get receive advisement on care, triage nurses are on call and at the ready. From the moment an emergency call comes in from a caregiver or family member, triage nurses begin assessing the situation, gain an understanding the patient’s specific care needs, and begin advising care.

Triage nurses also inform the hospice case manager or visiting nurse of the situation, as well as the patient’s physician, and determine whether or not an immediate visit is required. Their remote work setting, coupled with the high-stress nature of the emergency care calls they receive, demands that triage nurses be critical thinkers who can take control of a situation, understand and prioritize care needs, and execute a plan quickly.