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.
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.
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.
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.
About the author
Buffey Anchordoqui, RN, is a hospice RN case manager with Care Dimensions.
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Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore, has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.