Monday, May 26, 2008

Hospice and Palliative Care: A New Opportunity

I have accepted a per diem position with a local visiting nurse agency which provides both palliative care and hospice care to people in our region. Since I became a nurse in 1996, I have worked in the urban areas which are located just under an hour from our home. I have always commuted elsewhere to work, and subsequently have never provided nursing care here in my own county.

For several reasons, I am quite excited about this position. For one, I will actually be able to see patients in and around the town where we live, as well as in neighboring towns and counties, some of which are quite lovely and bucolic. Making home visits in our area---rather than in the down-and-out city---will be a novel and welcome experience, and I look forward to not necessarily having to deal so much with drug dealers, litter, urine-soaked hallways, and other hallmarks of urban visiting nursing (although I will keep my other home care job in the city, as well).

More importantly, I am professionally excited to be embarking on the learning curve of officially becoming a hospice nurse, mentoring with seasoned hospice nurses who can teach me the nuances of a very important nursing specialty. While I did indeed have a short-lived position at a local residential hospice from which I was forced to resign for health reasons earlier this year, I was not there long enough to fully appreciate the breadth and depth of all there is to learn about providing hospice care. In previous positions, I have had the opportunity of supporting patients and families through the dying process, and have even had the honor of pronouncing the death of several beloved patients, but there is still so much more to learn.

Last summer, my wife and I were integral in providing care to my step-father who died surrounded by family in early September from complications of pancreatic cancer. That experience---and my previous experiences as a visiting nurse with terminally ill patients---cemented my desire to become more of an expert in end-of-life care, and I feel that I now may have an opportunity to accumulate the knowledge that I have longed for.

As part of my new position, I will also begin working with this particular agency's palliative care team, which offers symptom management and support to patients living with terminal illness who are still receiving treatment and are not yet eligible for hospice services. This is another area of specialty which intrigues and excites me, and I look forward to the knowledge that will also come from that specific professional experience.

Four months after quitting my full-time job, things are beginning to come together, and I give thanks that I am able to find satisfying and relatively well-paid work in my chosen profession. May other be so blessed.
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