Career Options in Hospice Care

Healthcare professional attending to patient in his home
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Hospice care is for people who are nearing the end of life. Hospice care services are provided by a team of healthcare professionals who maximize comfort for a person who is terminally ill by reducing pain and addressing physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. To help families, hospice care also provides counseling, respite care, and practical support.

Unlike other medical care, the focus of hospice care isn't to cure the underlying disease. The goal of hospice care is to support the highest quality of life possible for whatever time remains.

Where Hospice Care Is Provided

Most hospice care is provided at home—with a family member typically serving as the primary caregiver. However, hospice care is also available at hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and dedicated hospice facilities.

Keep in mind that no matter where hospice care is provided, sometimes it's necessary to be admitted to a hospital. For instance, if a symptom can't be adequately managed by the hospice care team in a home setting, a hospital stay might be needed.

Career Options

Hospice jobs can be full-time, part-time or per-diem. There are day or night shifts, weekdays or weekends.

Jobs in hospice care include palliative care nurses, physicians and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Case managers, counselors, and social workers are also involved in hospice care. Here are some specific jobs:

  • The hospice RN case manager makes sure that everything is in place to carry out the care plan. This includes proper staff, equipment, supplies, and medications.
  • The hospice nurse is highly trained in making patient assessments and providing all necessary care to ensure proper pain and symptom management and that the patient's needs are met.
  • The hospice home health aide or CNA is there to provide for the basic needs of the patient. Bathing, changing, feeding, checking of vital signs and reporting any significant changes in the patient's condition.
  • The hospice social worker evaluates the needs of the patient and their family upon admission. They specialize in helping the patient and family come to terms with terminal illness and to advocate for the patient's needs and rights. They may also act as a grief and/or bereavement counselor to the patient and their family.
  • The hospice chaplain can help the patient and their loved ones work through many of the whys of life and death. The chaplain is there to listen and offer spiritual support no matter the particular religious beliefs.
  • The hospice therapist includes a number of different disciplines i.e.; physical therapist speech-language therapist, massage therapist, music therapist... these services are provided for those hospice patients that would benefit from the therapy.
  • The hospice physician or medical director works in conjunction with the patient's regular physician so that the patient receives the best care ensuring comfort and quality of life.

More About Palliative Medicine

Palliative medicine was recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 2006. For more information, see the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

Palliative care is not for the faint of heart. Someone who works in hospice care should be very comfortable around death and dying and dealing with grieving families on a regular basis.

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