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I am a Hospice Nurse

As a hospice nurse, I’ve watched hundreds of people die.

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I am a Hospice Nurse

As a hospice nurse, I’ve watched hundreds of people die.

As a hospice nurse, I can tell you about death coming in threes- 3, 6, 9, or none for a while. I can tell you about the power of music -- and human touch -- at deathbeds. Sometimes I will organize "last wishes" -- major or minor requests of patients who have only days, or hours, to live. Sometimes they want to get back together with a loved one---ask for forgiveness, say goodbye. Sometimes it's to confess something terrible they've done in their lives.

As a hospice nurse, I can tell you about what it feels like to see people dying around you, all the time, and how a hospice worker needs to attend wakes and funerals of patients not only for the family's sake, but for their own sake: the staff members need healthy closure so they can restore themselves for the next patient. For me, seeing human death has become so common that one night on call might have me seeing 2-3 patients pass on -- and yet, I still cry, every single time. I can tell you about the transition process on the journey to death, and what "near-death awareness" is, and how a patient may sometimes hold on to life if a family member isn't "ready to let go." 

As a hospice nurse, I can tell you all about my experience with a patient suffering from terminal restlessness -- who was screaming that demons were chasing him. I have often been present at the deaths of both a husband-and-wife, or father and daughter. I can tell you about organizing a group of volunteers and staff members for a patient who has no family, because they don't want them to die alone, even if they aren't conscious.

I can tell you all this, and more. Because I am a hospice nurse.

By Kara Smith (LPN, palliative care nurse and education coordinator at Unity Hospice of Greater St. Louis)

Submitted by: Jenna Matzer, Unity Hospice

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