10 Things I Hate About Being a Hospice Nurse

I’ve been a hospice nurse for over fifteen years, and I have cared for patients in a variety of settings. Although I started out on a completely different path those many years ago after college, personal circumstances later in life pointed me in the direction of hospice. So grateful that it did, as I can honestly say I am among the very lucky to have found their calling doing a job that I love. That being said, there are a few things that can irritate the heck out me….

  1. Get Well balloons. I Love You balloons, yes, Snoopy balloon, yes, Thinking Of You balloon, yes. Get well? No. Consider after you leave, the dying person staring at your Get Well balloon floating at the end of their bed all day. If you don’t know the person you are visiting at a hospice house is terminal and unable to get well, then perhaps you aren’t a close enough friend or neighbor to be visiting at this time.
  2. Thinking that somehow hospice killed the person who died the day after being admitted to the hospice house. People are admitted to hospice ONLY if they are dying within a 6 month or less time frame. The reason the person died is because of the disease or condition which qualified them for hospice in the first place.
  3. Having clowns walk the corridors at one of the hospice houses I worked at. Of all the volunteers who are of great benefit to hospice patients, clowns are not one of them. The volunteer clowns that would arrive about once a month at my hospice house to hand out stickers and such did not bring joy, they did not bring laughs, and they did not know enough to stay out of rooms they were not wanted in. Clowns at a children’s hospice would be a more appropriate setting, unfortunately, my hospice house was entirely adults.
  4. Having to share a room. There should be no hospice house, anywhere, which requires patients and families to share a room with another dying person and their family. We are not a hospital and pulling a curtain across the room does not make it another room.
  5. Having to have the conversation with a family member about signing a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) because the hospital doctor who referred them, or their own doctor had not been honest enough to tell them the facts in the weeks to months leading up to this moment. Whether or not you sign one after getting the facts of the situation is entirely up to you. To have to be the first honest conversation about your current situation that you have had up to this point is not ok.
  6. Not having a smaller patient to nurse ratio. A hospice house is not a hospital, and we take pride in that. So do not schedule more than five patients to a nurse so that the nurse in turn can provide the needed emotional and physical care without being constrained by an additional five patients with equally valid needs. Ten dying patients and their families is a lot for one person to attend to properly, and yet somehow we do it. But we all know how much more we could offer, perhaps even pamper, if given the chance.
  7. When the pharmacy tech would take over the med room to refill med supplies during peak times nurses have to give out medications. Never fails, and never is quick.
  8. Starting the day with a computer that did not work and having to spend the first hour of your shift getting someone from IT to come and fix it in between all the other things you normally did during the first hour of your shift. If this involved just a simple phone call it would not be included on the list.
  9. Having a mandatory nurses meeting during your shift. Which meant interrupting your nursing duties for meetings that could just as well been read on paper during lunch break.
  10. Arriving at a patient’s house at night to find out from the rightfully so angered person answering the door, that your patient had died that morning.


Not such a bad list really, and I had to think hard to get to ten. But there you go, even the best of jobs have their frustrations. A big thank you to all the wonderful families who have allowed me to be a small part of that very difficult time in your family’s life. It has been a privilege and an honor to have had your trust in caring for your loved one.

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