There is no "I" in team. In hospice, it takes a village.
Updated: Jul 22
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned as a hospice nurse, is the importance of the team you share a patient with. Early on I didn't understand the roles of the other hospice team members, and in some ways, I felt they were encroaching on my time with a patient, perhaps even feeling threatened, as if their being there might indicate in some way that I was not capable of doing my job. I had a lot to learn.
When I first became a hospice nurse, I had absolutely no idea how much I didn't know about death, the process of dying or what grief really looked like. I had no idea of how much weight I put on my own shoulders thinking I was supposed to handle it all on my own, until I realized how truly blessed I was to have these incredible people to share each patient with. Once I became more aware, and really understood what a hospice team was all about, I found myself dependent on them to guide and teach me.
When a patient comes onto hospice, they are assigned a doctor, a nurse, a social worker, a chaplain, a home health aid, and a volunteer. Each brings something unique and valuable to the care of the patient, as well as those at the bedside. Over the years I have come to learn the vast amount of information and all of the gifts each member of the team brings, and I have learned to rely on them. I go to them for answers, because I have learned... I do not have them all!!! I have also gone to them for help for myself; for comfort, for support, for guidance and clarity. I need this team, as much as the patient and family do.
Many times, the family refuses additional support, which I believe stems from them not understanding the value each brings. I can appreciate this. I now take the time to explain each role, helping them to understand the benefits and encouraging them to embrace the many ways we are all here to help them navigate a very difficult time. I love the team I get to work with and have witnessed the gentle way they approach a dying patient or the person grieving at the bedside. I see all of the many ways they offer support and I know that personally, I cannot do my job without them.
The dying process, while it has many similarities, is unique and unpredictable and no one dies or grieves the same way. To be able to navigate it in a way that allows each person to feel supported, comforted and heard, requires a team of hospice professionals who are trained to react and respond to a myriad of different symptoms, emotions, fears, curiosities and concerns.
Now when I see a member of our team at the bedside of a patient that I too am providing care for, I step back and I watch in awe of the beautiful work that they do, and I am not the least bit threatened they are there. In fact, it is just the opposite; I am thankful, and I am grateful, and I am honored to have shared each experience with them.
The other members of this team, the ones that don't get mentioned nearly as often, but deserve just as much credit are the 24/7 triage and after-hours nurses, the outreach and intake people who help to get our patients and families settled in with us, and everyone who works in the office making sure the the paperwork is processed and supplies are ordered and we have the tools needed to do the work we do. It takes a village.
You may have heard me say this before, but I see the hospice team as a patchwork quilt made with a variety of different fabric squares. While they do not match, they are uniquely beautiful and when they come together they create an exquisite quilt that can wrap tightly around anyone who might feel ache, and comforts them and makes them feel safe.
That is what a hospice team means to me.