What Does a Hospice Nurse Do?
Freyda Spencer loves her job. It involves a lot of crying but also a lot of fulfillment.
Spencer is a hospice nurse. The Bristol Herald Courier, a newspaper covering northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia, reports on what her days are like. They involve a lot more than pain control.
For example, on her thrice-weekly visits to Jerry Goodpasture, who has lung cancer:
“We do vital signs, talk about how it’s been since our last visit and address any symptoms. Like Jerry has been having some back pain that we’re trying to keep track of and she [recently] had a fever,” Spencer said.
On a recent visit, she also recognized that Goodpasture hadn’t been taking the correct dosage of one of her prescriptions.
The hospice nurse acts as a liaison between patient and physician, conferring about changes in condition, medication needs and saving the family trips to the doctor’s office, Spencer said.
“I can communicate with Dr. [Sue] Prill [Goodpasture’s doctor] about what is going on and we can treat her, rather than her having to get in a car and go out there. Although she gets out very well,” Spencer said while teasing Goodpasture – a human whirlwind of community involvement who has tried to maintain a busy pace spending time with friends and family.
One of the myths Spencer contradicts in the article is that hospice means immediate death. To enter hospice, you need an expected survival time of six months or less, but some people live much longer. She’s had patients for four years. “Only the ‘big man’ knows the true time,” she tells the newspaper.
You may also be interested in these previous OurParents posts:
- Hospice: A Nurse Shares First-Person Experiences
- An Unexpected View of Hospice, Straight From an Aide
- What Do Hospice Volunteers Do?
Leigh Ann Otte is a freelance writer who specializes in health and aging issues. She covers finding and paying for senior care for OurParents. If you have any questions about this post or need help finding senior-care options for a loved one, call 1-866-483-4896 to speak with a care advisor in your area.