To be a hospice nurse means far more than meets the eye. For me, it is my passion, my “why.” The longer that I practice nursing as a hospice nurse, the more that I recognize my purpose. Hospice nursing is more than caring for the patient at the end of life. It is caring for the family and also feeding MY soul. Hospice nursing is not only for the patient and family but very much for the hospice team. I have said it many times, but I believe that people are placed in my life just as much as I am placed in theirs. What my patients and families should know is that I need them as much as they need me.
I consider myself an extrovert. For those of you unaware of this personality trait, it is a person that may be considered outgoing or overly friendly. A person that thrives on the relationship with others. Not only in my personal life but also carries over to my career. Over the past month, I have tested my abilities. I am a hugger. A lover. A person that cares in many capacities. Many of which have to do with touch. To maintain a distance of at least 6 feet, with a mask on, has proven rather difficult. I often have a love for my patients and families that is unimaginable. I truly wish for a journey at the end of life that is full of love, comfort, and dignity.
In this last month, I have most definitely missed out on the hugs. The touch. Something as simple as holding the hand of a grieving loved one. Or touching the shoulder of a patient with what may be expressing some of their last words ever spoke. These moments of affection are so very important, not only to you but to me as well. How does one express emotion from behind a mask? How is it possible to express love and compassion with just your eyes? I am learning. Just as each and every one of you is learning as well.
I know that this is just a brief time in our lives. One day we will look back on it and be able to talk of this time to our kids, grandkids, and friends. It will soon be just a memory. A very difficult memory and one to respect. We have a lot to learn, EVERY DAY. Don’t take the days for granted. They are not promised. And for those of you struggling to get to the next day, just remember that you are loved and appreciated. We want to hug you. We want to hold your hand. We want to comfort you in the time of struggling, not only because this crazy virus has held us all hostage, but because your loved one may be speaking their last words. We want to provide you with the support and companionship that you need and what you may long for. We love and care for you even though we cannot actually physically show you.
Just the thoughts of a hospice nurse in the midst of a pandemic.
With only love and compassion,
–By Daniele Starkey, RN, BSN, CHPN at Midland Care Hospice
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