It’s not always about the patient when you work in hospice. As a certified nurse’s aide in other settings, your complete focus is on the patient, feeding, bathing, moving -- it’s all you can do to keep up with the basic needs of your patients. In hospice, you’ll continue to take care of the patients and keep them comfortable in their last days, but your biggest challenge may be dealing with family and friends and your own emotions.
When patients are still ambulatory in hospice, you’ll do many of the same jobs you did in the nursing home: feed, bathe, change diapers and linens, move patents from the bed to a chair and bring them outdoors when they’re able. You’ll keep an eye out for bedsores and make sure the patients are turned regularly. You are going to be on the front lines, and the hospice care team depends on you to report changes in the patient’s health.
If you’re part of a hospice team in a patient’s home, you may be asked to do light housekeeping. You won’t have to get on your hands and knees to scrub floors, but you’ll be expected to straighten the room, take out the trash and clean up the dishes after meals. You may even do some of the cooking, depending on your shift. In a hospice facility, as a CNA, you’ll tidy the room, put away dirty laundry and pick up trash.
You’re not a trained grief counselor, but you should expect to build a relationship with friends and family members as they go through the grieving process. Since you’re with the patient so much, family and friends will pepper you with questions about what’s going on. In your capacity, you can’t answer medical questions; the best you can do is listen with empathy and give the grieving family phone numbers of doctors or nurses they can call for answers. You’ll be able to assure them that you are following the care plan decided by the team.
In many hospice agencies, the certified nursing assistant is an integral part of the hospice care team. You’ll be expected to attend meetings that involve your patients and give accurate, up-to-date reports. Your daily reports include vital signs and food and liquid intake and output, but during the team meeting, you may be asked for your opinion about a patient’s mood or state of mind. This is also the time you should voice any concerns and make your own recommendations. Maybe you think the patient would like to talk with a chaplain after asking you repeatedly about the afterlife, or perhaps you think a nutritionist might come by with suggestions about how to make food taste better.
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