Is Dying Defeat? A hospice perspective...

Dear Barbara, I have a nurse that is having issues with death in our job. She feels that she is not emotionally strong enough to deal with death and is ready to quit. She is a phenomenal nurse and her patient's adore her. She just feels helpless knowing she isn't saving them. She has refused my offer of counseling to support her. How can I support her and show her that she is doing more for her patients than she realizes.

Your employee may be doing a lot for her patients and their families but it is at the expense of her well-being. By refusing counseling she is telling you how uncomfortable she is and that she really doesn’t want to make this job choice work.

Some people just aren't equipped to deal with their patients dying. A lot of us got into healthcare so we could “fix” people and fixing people is very rewarding.

Everyone has their specialness and it behooves us, for peace of mind, to find that area that makes our heart sing.

It sounds like hospice may not make your employee's heart sing. No matter how good she is with people or how much her patients and their families love and respect her, if she doesn’t feel good about her work none of the rest counts. It is how we feel at the end of the day about ourselves and our life that comes first. Our personal well being takes priority over any amount of work that we do for others. If we don’t feel good about the work we are doing then no matter how much support we have it isn't going to be enough.

I am glad your nurse is phenomenal with patients but it doesn’t sound like hospice is a good fit for her. My guess is if she continues to work in end of life she will burn out quickly.

When I am hiring someone for hospice work the first thing I talk with them about is their thoughts on dying and death. I can teach anyone how to care for the dying but I can’t make them believe dying is not a failure or the enemy of the medical profession. We all have our unique talents but it sounds like end of life work is not this employee’s speciality. For her life well being it would be best if she found another area of work.

Something more about... Is Dying Defeat? A hospice perspective...

The Final Act of Living: Reflections of a Long-time Hospice Nurse is my book on end of life that offers knowledge and clarity to ease the fear and misinformation about dying and death. It explores the topics of living with a life threatening illness, fear of death, understanding the signs of approaching death from disease, the dying process, stages of death, the normal grieving process, living wills and other end of life issues.

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Julia Seibert

Very well said. I appreciate this perspective.

Nancy DeYoung

Hi Barb,
I left working with terminal patients when young for same reason this woman feels. Imagine my surprise when I ended up 30 years later finding myself back with cancer patients! Your blue book should be in every hospital and Hospice and Nursing School. It is all about perspective and maybe life experience.
Once quality of life is no longer possible my feeling became my job was then to give quality and comfort to life that was left. To see it as helping them pack their bags for the next destination with clarity and positive care. Living each day is all any of us really has so it should be lived without pain, getting touch daily, experiencing cheer and loved ones. Gone from My Sight can dramatically change perspective of the departing as well as those being left. It MUST be all about the patient not the caregiver. I have seen some families make it a misery and some a loving experience. The Blue book can be the key.
This nurse may just not have the life experience and should go to happier specialty for a time. Refusing counseling tells me there upis an issue untold here.
Hope all is well with you, I see all your posts. Great service and teaching.

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