Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Night at Hospice

I worked the night shift last night.  You'd think a 12 1/2 hour shift would seem to take forever but most of the time it just flies by.  Although it can be pretty hectic, the pace is usually not frantic, at least not for the entire shift.  

Sometimes it is still hard for me to get used to this kind of nursing.  I love that we can have time to have a cup of tea with a patient or sit with a family member when they are having a hard time.  To me, it is an opportunity to give the kind of nursing care we all want to give.  We have time to try to give care to the whole person, not just treat their illness.  

The part that still startles me, though, is when I realize how differently we approach changes in a patient's condition.  In most types of nursing, if a patient takes a turn for the worse, we call the doctor or if you are at a clinic, maybe even 911.  In hospice nursing, in most cases anyway, we just increase the comfort care and gently prepare the patient and family for the approaching transition.  Usually they've had time to learn what to expect and they know we can offer relief from pain and anxiety.  Instead of an air of panic and chaos, we try to exude calm confidence.   

Many patients are glad when they notice the dying process is progressing.  Recently, when I told a woman I did not think she was going to die that night she looked at me long and hard and said, "Well, I hope you are wrong!"  She feels she has waited too long already.  She's ready.  It's just not quite her turn yet.