3 Lessons of a Hospice Nurse
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Buffey Anchordoqui, RN
Buffey Anchordoqui, RN

3 Lessons of a Hospice Nurse

Posted on June 10, 2022 by Buffey Anchordoqui, RN

I have been a registered nurse for nearly 20 years. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I cared for cardiac patients in hospitals. Like many nurses who already were experiencing burnout, I took a break when the pandemic hit and stayed home with my seven-year-old son, whose school was closed.

When school reopened and I was ready to go back to work, I did not want to return to a hospital. I had seen a lot of people approach end of life in the hospital, and I was frustrated by not being able to spend enough time with them. They deserved care that was more compassionate.

Fortunately, two nurses with whom I had worked at the hospital had become hospice RN case managers with Care Dimensions and encouraged me to apply there. It has been a perfect fit. Since becoming a hospice nurse in August 2021, I’ve learned some important lessons that I’d like to share with nurses who may be considering a career in hospice or palliative care.

  1. I get to see my patient as a whole person and not something that needs to be fixed.

In a hospital, a patient is given many tests and the focus is on how to fix “the problem.” Everything is so quick. In 30 minutes, a nurse can be pulled in 10 directions. As a hospice nurse, I get to focus on my patient, no matter what.

I see my patients in their homes, with their families. I have time to build relationships with them and coordinate other support for their quality of life. I get to know them and learn what their lives were like before they became sick. I discover what is important to them, which helps me help them have the best days they possibly can.

  1. I have more flexibility and autonomy in how I care for my patients and see them.

I make my own schedule. I ensure all my patients receive timely, compassionate care, but I make things happen the way I think they need to happen, which is much different from working in a hospital. I decide what my patients need in collaboration with my interdisciplinary care team members, the patient, and their family. Making patient care decisions in the hospital was a lot more regimented with more layers in the approval process. Making them for a hospice patient took some getting used to because in the hospital it’s by the book. Having autonomy is a huge benefit because I’m empowered to do the right things for my patient and use my knowledge without being critiqued.

  1. Working in hospice has made me more aware of my own life and how precious life is.

Seeing people near the end of life gives me a different perspective. I am allowed into an intimate and personal moment. It’s a profound place to be and not everyone gets the privilege to be there. I can see how good a life has been for someone when they’re having a good death. It makes me want to live a good life and leads to more work-life balance. It also makes me appreciate my family. I take more time to reflect on the present and say this moment counts because we don’t know how many we have.

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About the author
Buffey Anchordoqui, RN, is a hospice RN case manager with Care Dimensions.

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