The voice on the other end of the phone
One of the things I have really grown deep appreciation for while working in hospice, is the different members of the team and the role they each play in providing comfort and support to patients and families. I admire and respect every member of the team, often being especially vocal about the home health aides and volunteers, as they continually amaze me with the work they do. But this blog is specifically dedicated to our triage and after-hours team, the ones who answer the calls at all hours, and support patients on weekends, holidays and every single day of the year. This blog is for anyone who takes a call from a patient or the people who love them and offer them comfort and support. I applaud you!
Every morning I read the after-hours report, usually looking for patients I am familiar with and have been seeing. And when I read that a wife or mother or any family member has called because they are scared, or sad, or confused or anxious or all of the above and I see that their questions were answered, their distress was relieved, and their hands were held in a way that eased their fear, I breathe a sigh of relief. And when I see that a visit was made, and calm came over the home of a family that was preparing for the death of someone they love, my heart smiles and I am filled with gratitude for the work I am blessed to do and all of the people I am honored to work with.
Today I visited a patient who is actively dying and early this morning, 6am to be exact, his wife called in a panic; her husband was breathing hard and she didn’t know what to do. She spoke with our after-hours nurse who provided support, medication education, and a listening ear, and less than an hour later, she arrived at their door. By the time I arrived, the patient was going through the dying process a little more peacefully and his wife felt more confident in the work she was providing him, because of that after-hours nurse. She told me how much better she felt after hearing her voice on the other end of the phone, and what it meant to her to have someone she could call when she felt uncertain and afraid.
When I am about to see a patient I have never seen, one of the first things I do is check the previous notes, most especially the ones from the triage calls, because those tell me if there was pain or distress, if supplies were needed, if emotional support is needed or how this patient and their family are working through the dying process. These are valuable to me and assure me that the care that was provided to the caller from the person on the other end of the phone was handled well, and I find comfort in that.
When someone you love is dying, there are so many questions you are going to have and the fear and the uncertainty of it all can be incredibly overwhelming. One of the things I think people don’t fully understand is the support they are provided by an entire team when hospice is involved. Every step of the process from being admitted to being pronounced starts with a phone call, and every person that answers your call will be the calming voice you need to navigate each step.
Every member of the hospice team goes above and beyond when it comes to providing care for someone at the end of their life, and comfort and support to those who will be saying goodbye. But for the purpose of this blog, I want to extend a huge “thank you” to all of the voices on the other end of the phone who take the calls from our patients or their families. I want to thank them for their excellent notes that help direct the next person who visits them, for sending someone out to see them or for arranging for all of their needs to be met.
Sometimes the voice on the other end of the phone is the person who quickly arranges for someone you love to be started on hospice, sometimes it is the person who comforts you exactly as you need and almost always, they are what helps to make the difference between pain and peaceful for someone who is about to die. Thank you for answering the phones, and thank you for your compassionate, beautiful hearts. xo