As a CNA, you have a choice of career opportunities. One job to consider is becoming part of a hospice care team. Hospice care has grown over the last 25 years to become a specialty for nursing. Hospice care is a philosophy of care that focuses on comfort and quality of life. The focus of hospice care is on providing complete physical, psycho-social, emotional, and spiritual care to terminally ill patients and their families.
What is Hospice?
Hospice is a medical specialty that helps patients and their families during the end of life. Instead of continuing to treat the patient as if a cure were possible, hospice workers understand that death will occur, and they support the patient and the family throughout the process. The goal is to provide the best possible quality of life and to prevent unnecessary treatments or interventions.
What types of patients receive hospice care?
Although all hospice patients receive compassionate and supportive end-of-life care, they may have different diagnoses, including:
• Cancer in patients of all ages
• Chronic conditions, such as COPD or heart failure
• Progressive diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or ALS
• Elderly patients
What’s different about being a hospice CNA?
1. The traditional goal of curing a patient is actually replaced by providing pain relief and comfort measures.
2. The family is included in the treatment plan. Helping the family with the pending loss of their loved one, and offering bereavement support, as well as, being assistance with other issues that may occur.
3. Hospice is a true collaboration among medical staff, social workers, clergy, family, and sometimes volunteers. Each team member has an important role and team members often communicate with each other.
Where does hospice care take place?
Some hospitals have special in-patient hospice floors. There are also some freestanding in-patient hospice facilities, sometimes community-based. However, most hospice care takes place at home. Hospice care is given primarily under the guidelines of the Medicare Benefit Act of 1983, a federal program that allows patients to die in their homes with their families and friends at their side.
What can I expect to do as a hospice CNA?
Each patient and family receives individualized care, based on their needs. As a hospice CNA, you will provide essential hands-on care such as bathing, feeding, positioning, and vital signs. You’ll observe the patient for the level of pain, and report when it increases, so that pain control can be adjusted. You will also sit with the patient and family, and be available to listen to their needs. As the primary bedside caregiver, you’ll have the opportunity to prepare them for the final stages of of life.
Is there anything else I should know?
Because each case ends with a death, all hospice staff learns to deal with grief and loss; working closely with patients and families can be emotional. Most agencies offer support groups and counseling to assist with job stress. Many patients who enter hospice die within a month or two.
People who choose to work in hospice care enjoy the chance to be closely involved with patients and families; they also like giving hands-on care to those who simply need to be comfortable. Dedicated hospice caregivers feel honored to be present at life’s end, and to be able to support the patient and family. As one hospice nurse said, “The last good thing that can happen is that my patient received excellent care.”
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