As a hospice nurse for 19 years, I’ve had the honor of caring for hundreds of patients as they’ve neared the end of their life. To be part of something so personal and sacred for patients and their families has given me a feeling of deep purpose.
One memorable experience during my career was having the opportunity to care for my hospice mentor through the end of her life.
Early in my career, I was a young hospice leader and Barbara (my mentor) took me under her wing, committed to encouraging and teaching me to grow as a hospice leader. At the time, Barbara was the hospice administrator, and she brought me in as her assistant administrator. I watched Barbara promote and advocate for hospice for many years while battling breast cancer.
When she knew there was no cure and her time on earth was approaching the end, she entrusted me with her care. I was with Barbara and her family when she took her last breath. Barbara was a hospice nurse for over 30 years. Caring for the woman who encouraged me in my hospice career was a great honor.
What I’d like people to understand about hospice is this: During the final stages of a terminal illness, hospice care focuses on making the person as comfortable as possible. Doing so allows the person to make the most of the time they have left. Hospice care is really about ensuring quality of life as one nears the end.
The hospice plan of care addresses the patient’s wishes and their needs. By managing distressing symptoms and educating the patient and family about what is happening to the body as one approaches the end can make the journey less scary.
Most importantly, hospice teams place the focus on the patient and their family – and what matters most to them – rather than on the illness.
Amy Wilson, RN, is a senior solution strategist at Netsmart. In her role, she helps shape the technology solutions for hospice and home care clients by bringing in a nurse’s perspective on what the technology must do to meet the needs of patients.